2018-05-03 / News

OOB police to keep close eye on intersection

Abigail Worthing Staff Writer


The intersection of Ocean Park Road and Smithwheel Road is a heavily travelled one, and is facing more congestion with the opening of the new Dunkin Donuts. One of the primary causes for the congestion can be seen in the foreground, the spur that leads 195 into Old Orchard Beach. (Abigail Worthing photo) The intersection of Ocean Park Road and Smithwheel Road is a heavily travelled one, and is facing more congestion with the opening of the new Dunkin Donuts. One of the primary causes for the congestion can be seen in the foreground, the spur that leads 195 into Old Orchard Beach. (Abigail Worthing photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – With the opening of a Dunkin Donuts on the corner of Smithwheel and Ocean Park roads, a neighbor is concerned about what the business will do to what he says is already a confusing traffic pattern.

Dunkin Donuts, placed on the northwest corner of the intersection, remains closed but bears a sign that states it will open “Spring 2018.” Vehicles that exit 195 into Old Orchard Beach may pass the intersection without notice. However, looking closer, complexities begin to show. Across from Dunkin Donuts on Ocean Park Road is Old Orchard Beach Campground and Smithwheel Road itself houses numerous condos and homes.

Dick Stephen is a Smithwheel Road resident and navigates the intersection regularly.

“People don’t realize that there are about 300 residents down this road,” Stephen said, referencing Smithwheel. “Taking a left out of here is treacherous.”

This intersection comes almost immediately after the conversion of Ocean Park Road and 195. Those leaving 195 must rapidly reduce their speed from 60 mph to 30 mph, and then merge onto Ocean Park Road. The Dunkin Donuts comes at a point where people are trying to either slow down to continue in to Old Orchard Beach, or speed up in preparation for entering 195, and those trying to leave the perpendicular Smithwheel Road going left must cross the two lanes of traffic heading toward the spur.

“People will wait and wait and then floor it at just the right moment just to get out,” Stephen said.

According to Old Orchard Beach Chief of Police Dana Kelley, the intersection is a high collision area. However, installing a traffic light is out of the town’s hands.

“We made a proposal to the Maine Department of Transportation, and I thought we had a really good argument, but they have their own matrix they work with, and we didn’t meet the criteria,” Kelley said. “We argued vehemently, but Old Orchard Beach has no authority there.”

In order to further regulate the flow of traffic, two islands have been added in the median on both sides of Smithwheel Road. However, Kelley said that since their inception the signs on the medians have been hit three times.

“I’m just not impressed with the design,” Kelley said.

While as of now MDOT has decided against a traffic light, it will install a flashing pedestrian crosswalk light for passage of those crossing Ocean Park Road, however the exact date has yet to be announced. With tourist season right around the corner and the opening of Dunkin Donuts imminent, there is a concern for the safety of those who will attempt to cross the lanes of traffic to visit the new location from the campground.

Joan C. Remillard and her husband have lived off Smithwheel Road for 21 years and travel the intersection multiple times a day. Remillard said while she is excited about the new Dunkin Donuts, she is concerned about what it will do to area traffic.

“We’ll see what happens and hope for the best,” Remillard said. “I’m sure the first few weeks will be difficult.”

Both Remillard and Stephen mentioned the two islands that have been installed on either side of the mouth of Smithwheel Road to Ocean Park Road, one of which has been painted yellow.

“The yellow is easier to see. I wish they would paint the other one,” Stephen said.

Kelley insists that he is still trying to get a traffic light at the intersection. He has requested a remote camera be installed to monitor the intersection so he can provide more information the next time he makes a request to MDOT. As for the upcoming summer, he plans to have more law enforcement presence in that area.

“Traffic coming off the spur is fast, so we’ll be getting additional enforcement down there, and bring out the radar board, but there’s only so much that we can do,” Kelley said.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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