A sign instructs motorists on how to navigate an “advisory shoulders” striping pattern on Eastern Road in Scarborough. Harpswell plans to paint advisory shoulders on much of Basin Point Road. (Photo courtesy Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers Inc.)
The Harpswell Select Board hopes to address persistent complaints about speeding on Basin Point Road with a new striping pattern and potentially with “speed cushions.”
The new striping pattern is known as “advisory shoulders” or “multiuse shoulders,” according to Ben Shaw, a design engineer with Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers Inc., of South Portland. The firm is overseeing the project, as well as the ongoing reconstruction of the road.
Shaw said the pattern is relatively new, but is in use “across Maine.” He cited Eastern Road in Scarborough as an example.
The pattern uses dashed lines to delineate one center lane for vehicles to travel in both directions, with “advisory shoulders” for bicycles and pedestrians on either side.
“How it works is, vehicles would travel in the center lane during normal traffic, staying away from the pedestrians,” Shaw said at a Select Board meeting on April 27. “In the instance where there’s a car coming in the opposite direction, the pedestrians have the right of way and the vehicles must yield to them and either pull to the side and let the car coming in the opposite direction go or vice versa.”
If there are no bicycles or pedestrians on the shoulders, vehicles can simply move to either side of the road and pass each other.
The pattern “complicates the road,” Shaw said. The intent is “to make people more cautious” and encourage them to slow down. Signs would inform motorists about how to navigate the pattern.
Harpswell Road Commissioner Ronald Ponziani expressed concern about the pattern. “You’re going to have a traffic jam all day long,” he said.
Ponziani predicted that drivers would continue to speed and “somebody’s probably going to go flying on a bicycle or jumping in the woods.”
But Select Board Chair Kevin Johnson said he has observed the pattern in Florida.
“Just seeing those lines there, instinctively, it makes you slow down. That’s what I found,” Johnson said. “It seemed to be working like a charm, frankly.”
Shaw agreed. “That’s what they’ve seen across the state where they’ve used it,” he said. He noted that the Bicycle Coalition of Maine enthusiastically supports advisory shoulders.
Johnson said the new pattern “would be a great start” before the town considers additional measures.
The pattern would begin at the head of Basin Cove, near Curtis Pond, and extend to the end of the road.
A next step could be to install “speed cushions” in problem areas.
Speed cushions slow down passenger vehicles, but do not affect emergency vehicles, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Like advisory shoulders, speed cushions would be new to Harpswell.
The proposal for advisory shoulders met with positive feedback from neighborhood residents in attendance.
“I like the concept a lot and I can see its benefits,” said Doug Nielsen, of Basin Point Road. Nielsen suggested that the town implement advisory shoulders and speed cushions at the same time.
Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Anthony Hovey agreed with Nielsen. “I think if you throw the cushions in there as well and get them two different ways, you’re probably better off slowing them down that way,” Hovey said.
Another resident, Dorothy Rosenberg, urged the town to bring back a digital speed sign that gathers data about vehicle speeds.
“We really want it back, and I particularly want it back because I think that if we’re doing a project of this magnitude, we really need to be collecting data to determine whether or not the things that we are doing are effective, and one of the ways to measure the effectiveness is going to be speed,” Rosenberg said.
Johnson said the previous sign was stolen.
Hovey said the Sheriff’s Office could install a device to gather traffic data until the town can replace the stolen sign. The device is not as noticeable as a speed sign, which reduces the risk of theft and vandalism.
Hovey said the Sheriff’s Office set up a digital speed sign in Raymond and secured it against theft, only to see it destroyed with a shotgun.
Johnson said the town would proceed with advisory shoulders and wait “a month or so to see if they’re working” before pursuing further measures.
Select Board member Jane Covey said the town needs to consult with emergency services to find out if they have concerns about speed cushions.
The introduction of advisory shoulders will cost $9,700, with most of the cost going toward signage. The addition of speed cushions would cost $19,400, according to an estimate from Gorrill-Palmer.
If neither the advisory shoulders nor the speed cushions prove effective, the town may lobby the Maine Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit on the road. The department wants the town to take the other steps first, according to a report by Gorrill-Palmer.
The town plans to complete the reconstruction of Basin Point Road this month, after beginning the project in 2021 and continuing it in 2022.
A tentative construction schedule from Gorrill-Palmer says preparatory work for paving will take place Friday, May 5. The contractor, All States Construction Inc., will pave the road early the week of May 8, then add gravel shoulders later in the week.
The striping of advisory shoulders and installation of signs could take place the week of May 15.
The narrow road carries numerous vehicles to and from the popular Dolphin Marina and Restaurant and other businesses at the end of Basin Point.
A 2019 count by the Maine Department of Transportation found that an average of 990 vehicles travel the road each day, according to Shaw. Data by season was not available.