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Public Comment: Falmouth Route 1 Plan

By November 12, 2013Our Position, Speak up for Biking
Nathan A. Poore, Town Manager
Town of Falmouth
271 Falmouth Road
On behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, we’d like to thank you for meeting with members of our staff on Thursday, November 7th to discuss Falmouth’s plans for Route 1 between Route 88 and Bucknam Road. As Route 1 is one of the most important transportation corridors in the state, and as the segment in Falmouth you’re working on sees a large amount of bicycle commuter and tourist traffic, your actions will not only impact local riding conditions–it will set a precedent for how other communities develop and maintain the Route 1 corridor. As such an important corridor, Route 1 should always be developed and maintained according to Complete Streets principles.
After reviewing the plans and speaking with you, we wanted to put in writing our initial impressions and recommendations. It is our hope that you will share these with the Council, the designers, and the public before going out to bid. We will also be sharing this letter with the MaineDOT and PACTS.
Initial Impressions:

  1. The Coalition feels that many elements of the plan will help make this segment of Route 1 feel more “small town” and less strip-like. We think that the landscaping and the lighting changes will make this strip of roadway more attractive in general for all users.
  2. The inclusion of eight-foot multi-use paths (presumably with ADA compliant tip downs and state of the art crossing signals) will help encourage pedestrian traffic. While there is good reason to question the wisdom of encouraging bicyclists to use sidepaths (such facilities have high crash rates, and the ones proposed in Falmouth have multiple intersections to negotiate) these wide paths may also provide travel conduits for inexperienced and young bicyclists.
  3. This project will have no appreciable impacts on improving the bikeability or the bicycle safety of this busy stretch of roadway. The proposed plan makes no significant changes to the current on-road conditions, and appears to simply maintain the existing and unsatisfactory shoulder conditions (which vary from about four feet to nothing).
  4. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is frankly disappointed that the plan authorizes approximately $6 million to bury the utilities, but fails to include approximately $2 million to improve the drainage and widen the road enough to provide for the AASHTO minimum standard 5 foot bike lanes next to the curb throughout the corridor. Cost appears to have been the driving consideration to reject the creation of bike lanes, but funds apparently are available for burying utilities?
We feel that the question of cost is not in this case a valid criterion for saying that safe bicycle accommodation is not feasible. The decision to bury utilities rather than provide for excellent bicycle accommodation is, in our view, one that prioritizes aesthetics ahead of safety.
In light of these impressions, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine offers the following Recommendations:

  1. Falmouth should reopen the conversation to widen Route 1, and should pursue revisions in the plan that would permit consistent five-foot bicycle lanes designed as per AASHTO national and PACTS regional standards throughout the project corridor. We are hopeful that you will reconsider prioritizing bicycle safety ahead of underground utilities. This is a critical transportation corridor in the region, and it should provide at a minimum the standard bike lane facilities that many lesser roads provide.
  2. In the event that the roadway is not widened to permit bike lanes, a minimum four-foot shoulder should be maintained throughout this corridor to provide a safer place for bicyclists to ride in this area. This shoulder should not be stenciled as a “bike lane”, as a four-foot shoulder next to a curb does not comply with AASHTO design recommendations for a bike lane in such locations. Attaining this minimum four-foot shoulder will probably require repurposing some of the space in the currently designed travel lanes.
  3. If a four-foot shoulder cannot be maintained through the corridor, the plan should consider Shared Lane Markings and Bicycles May Use Full Lane throughout the corridor to alert drivers that bicyclists could be in the travel lanes.
  1. To improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists,the radii of all intersections should be as short as possible to force cars to slow down as they leave/enter Route 1. It also shortens the crossing distances for users of the multi-use paths. If the Town reopens the discussion of widening the roadway, changing the turn radii could be addressed as part of that project.
  2. Any drainage structures which are in the shoulder should be installed at grade, and include wheel safe grates.
  3. Traffic signals should include bicycle detection devices and appropriate signage.

The Coalition appreciates your willingness to consider our input on this project at this late juncture. In general, we feel that this plan could have done more to make this critical transportation corridor a more complete street that takes into account the needs of all the users of the roadway. We are happy to take part in any conversation about improving the walkability and bikeability of your town, our region, and the whole state.
Thanks for your time and consideration, Regards,
Nancy Grant, Executive Director
James C. Tassé, Ph.D, Education Director Jennifer W. Ladd, Board Member