2018-10-04 / News

Exit changes possible fix to Route 112

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer


Lisa Labonte of Saco describes the trials of living on the corner of Garfield and North streets, know locally as “crash corner,” to residents gathered for a public meeting about Route 112 held Sept. 27. Residents were encouraged to share their thoughts and grievances about roadways during the meeting, which the team will take into account prior to formulating a final recommendation in early 2019. (Abigail Worthing photo) Lisa Labonte of Saco describes the trials of living on the corner of Garfield and North streets, know locally as “crash corner,” to residents gathered for a public meeting about Route 112 held Sept. 27. Residents were encouraged to share their thoughts and grievances about roadways during the meeting, which the team will take into account prior to formulating a final recommendation in early 2019. (Abigail Worthing photo) SACO – Saco officials know there’s a problem with Route 112.

There are reports of dangerous intersections, traffic congestion, poor turnpike access, speeding, and a barrage of trucks that travel up and down the route adding strain and at times damaging roads with the heavy loads they carry.

But Saco also knows this isn’t a problem it can solve on its own, which is why the city has embarked on a Route 112/Exit 36 Area Transportation Study with the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Department of Transportation to find the best blend of long term and short term solutions. The $200,000 study was launched in 2018 and will conclude in February of next year, looking at solutions for not only vehicular commuters, but pedestrians and cyclists as well. The cost for the study was divided between the three entities, with Saco taking on $40,000, the Department of Transportation paying $66,000, and the remaining $94,000 covered by the Maine Turnpike Authority.

A series of solutions has been proposed, and the final plan will include a projects both large and small, trying to fit as much as possible within whatever funds will be available, a fact which is, as of now, unknown. The projects could span anywhere between short term fixes and long term solutions that could take either three to five years to complete, or as long as 10 years.

The Sept. 28 public meeting was the second on the topic. The first was held in June. According to Emily Roy, marketing and communications specialist for the city of Saco, the first meeting in June was “standing room only.” While the turnout was slightly less for this second meeting, there was not an empty seat in council chambers.

The data presented at the Sept. 28 meeting took into account concerns of the public from the first June meeting, which included lack of sidewalks and bike lanes along Buxton Road, speeding and the need for better access to the turnpike.

Involved in the accumulation of data and solution presented at the meeting were the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Saco Police Department in correlation with the city of Saco.

Tom Errico, an engineer at T. Y. Lin International, detailed the different problem areas that span from the Industrial Park exit off I-195 to the intersection of Louden Road and 112. Some problem areas, such as the intersection of Jenkins and Buxton roads, have been determined to need a traffic signal. However, a challenge is presented by the offset nature of Hillview Avenue that does not align with Jenkins, making the placement and function of a light complicated. Also of concern is Hillview Market, which sees pedestrian traffic that could be corrected with a signal. Also compounding the traffic in this area is Saco Middle School, located a quarter of a mile up Buxton Road from the intersection.

Another problematic area in the study is the meeting of Route 112 and Industrial Park Road, where traffic can back up on Buxton Road for those waiting to turn onto the Industrial Park Road in the morning commute, a trend that repeats in the opposite direction down Industrial Park Road for those waiting to turn onto Buxton Road during afternoon rush hour. The intersection, according to the study, is particularly complicated as it needs different solutions for different times of day. For example, the addition of a secondary left turn lane onto Industrial Park Road would alleviate morning traffic backup on Buxton Road, but do nothing to diminish the traffic associated with afternoon traffic.

Also being considered are changes to exit 36 on the turnpike and the possible reopening exit 5 in Saco, including the possibility of adding turning lanes and exits on Interstate 195, which would help reroute traffic off the turnpike directly onto Buxton Road. Errico said the idea is still in the hypotheses stage and would need to be studied by the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Department of Transportation, but he theorized the new exit could function similarly to exit 2 in Kittery, where a separate lane runs parallel with the turnpike to allow for multiple turn offs as part of one exit.

The proposed fixes will be chosen based both on cost and value of each project.

While some sections of the area have been determined to need further attention and work, other areas, like the Buxton and Flag Pond roads intersection don’t present enough issues that warrant any changes.

Following the presentation, residents in attendance were encouraged to provide commentary on both what was presented as well as what should be done in the future. While concerns were raised about speed enforcement and the timeline of the project, many raised a red flag over the number of large shipping trucks that travel Buxton Road every day. Residents said they see 800 trucks a day, as it is a popular throughway for trucks that travel off the turnpike to the Lakes Region of the state. According to Errico, the study has already been in contact with truck distribution centers, and hopes a the long term solution could be to divert truck traffic.

Lisa Labonte has lived at what residents sometimes refer to as “crash corner,” or the corner of Garfield and North streets, since 1994, in a home that has been in her family since 1952. According to Labonte, due to the high volume of trucks outside her home, she has had damage to her pool and cracks in her foundation. She said every time a truck hits a pothole outside, her whole home shakes.

“I can’t sleep at night,” Labonte said. “I can’t get out of my own driveway. We need a solution and we need it now.”

Project officials will take the information and opinions garnered during the meeting and draft a report of preliminary recommendations and solutions before it moves forward to the third and final public meeting, which will be held in January. The final report scheduled for February.

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

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