Traffic has been a perennial challenge on Route 1 in Saco and Scarborough, and officials in both communities expect more development and traffic along the busy corridor.
That realization has prompted the municipalities to team up to develop a regional plan to make Route 1 safer and more accessible for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The heavily traveled 10-mile stretch of Route 1 slices through the commercial centers of both communities. As many as 20,000 vehicles a day pass through the busiest sections between the Biddeford and South Portland lines, and increasing housing and business development in both Saco and Scarborough means officials must plan for more vehicles to enter and exit the road.
“The resulting increase in vehicle traffic on Route 1 will make safety a key priority there,” said Patrick Fox, director of Saco Public Works. “Carefully planning driveways and managing traffic flow as this area develops will help to alleviate some of the existing traffic concerns.”
This week, the communities will launch a series of public meetings to hear ideas and concerns about Route 1 from residents, business owners and anyone else who uses the road. The first meeting will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Saco City Hall. A second meeting is planned for Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. at Scarborough Town Hall.
Information gathered at the meetings and through an online survey will be used in a study paid for by the two communities and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System. Expected to be completed in the spring, the $98,000 study will lay the groundwork for developing a comprehensive plan for Route 1 that aims to unify the road character in both communities. Recommended improvements would be implemented as funding becomes available.
Saco and Scarborough each contributed $10,000 toward the study, and PACTS picked up the remaining $78,000.
The goal of the study, according to officials from both communities, is to create a plan for a business-friendly road that encourages people to walk, bike and use public transportation. The focus will include improving pedestrian safety by looking at things such as signal design, crosswalk locations and pedestrian refuges. A plan also will be developed for how to improve the road for cyclists.
The study also will look at American Disability Act accessibility at intersections, where to make curb cuts and coordinating traffic signals, Chace said.
According to the Maine Department of Transportation, the number of cars that travel each day on Route 1 in Saco and Scarborough have leveled out in recent years after peaking in the early 2000s. But at least 15,000 cars pass along the road each day, with higher traffic at key intersections such as Oak Hill in Scarborough, where an estimated 27,000 cars pass through each day. Scarborough has a population of about 20,000 people.
Scarborough has taken steps to address congestion at high-traffic intersections, including Dunstan Corner, which sees nearly 30,000 cars per day. In 2012, a $4.5 million project moved the intersection of Payne Road and Route 1 to relieve congestion at Dunstan Corner, where drivers had grown used to bottlenecks, especially during the summer.
Chace said the feedback collected during the meetings and from the online survey is a critical part of the study and resulting plan.
“That’s the most important thing at this point, to get that feedback,” he said.