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Public Comment Regarding: Old Orchard Beach Dunkin’ Donuts Proposal

By January 27, 2016Our Position

Reference File: (Traffic) Peer Review 12-17-15 provided by Gorrill Palmer.
Summary Statement
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is a statewide organization that works to make Maine better for bicycling and walking. We support well-designed development and streets that create environments that are safe and welcoming for those traveling on foot or bike.  We are writing to express our concerns that a Dunkin Donuts at the intersection of Smithwheel and Ocean Park Roads may create safety hazards for foot and vehicle hazards.
Project Discussion
We were contacted about this project by a local group whose goal is to make Old Orchard Beach a pedestrian and cycling safety-conscious community. We have worked with this group in the past to help provide bicycle and pedestrian safety education to J-1 students that relocate to Old Orchard Beach each summer. Many of these J-1 students walk and bike along Ocean Park Road to get to and from Old Orchard Beach and Saco.
We have not been able to review any design documents for this proposed project, but we have received comments from the local group and we have reviewed the Gorrill-Palmer engineering review.
Based on this information, we are concerned that a Dunkin Donuts at this location may create safety hazards for foot and vehicle traffic. There are several issues with this location that we feel warrant more careful consideration, including:

  • The existing intersection at Smithwheel Road and Ocean Park Road is already a safety concern for bicyclists and pedestrians. Between 2011 and 2013, 2 crashes involving bicyclists and 1 crash involving a pedestrian occurred at this location.
  • It should be expected that a Dunkin Donuts at this location will result in significant foot traffic both from the nearby residents as well as from the large campground across the street.
  • The site is located at the on/off ramp for I-195, and traffic should be expected to exceed the posted speed limit of 30 mph, as the road has most of the characteristics of an interstate almost right up to the proposed location.
  • The crossing distance is approximately 48 feet, which an average person will traverse in about 11 seconds—which is a long time in traffic moving more than 30 mph.
  • While there are sidewalks on the south side Ocean Park Road, there are none on the north side in the immediate location of the project, so pedestrians approaching the site do not have a safe place to walk.
  • While it appears that there were once crosswalks on both the east and west side of Smithwheel Road, our understanding is that only one crosswalk across Ocean Park Road will be permitted after the project is finished.
  • The Dunkin Donuts will be a trip attractor and the additional vehicle traffic and queuing may create additional safety and traffic hazards on both Smithwheel and Ocean Park Roads.

Locations like this are inherently problematic for vulnerable users.  In other locations where a crosswalk directs pedestrians across a street where motor vehicles are traveling at high speeds on the way to or from a highway, there have been recent crashes. By way of example:

  • In October 2015, a bicyclist attempting to make a left turn across Baxter Boulevard onto Bates Street in Portland was hit by a car that had just exited Interstate 295 southbound.
  • In June 2014, a pedestrian was attempting to cross the street where southbound cars are exiting off the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge onto Route 1A in South Portland. The intersection includes chicanes designed to slow down exiting traffic off the high-speed bridge, a crosswalk, and a flashing beacon (RRFB). A vehicle stopping to permit the pedestrian to cross was rear-ended by two cars.

In our opinion, locating a Dunkin Donuts at this site appears sub-optimal from a bicycle and pedestrian safety perspective.   We recommend that either an alternative site for this popular business be identified, or that very robust pedestrian safety measures be included in this project.  In addition to the RRFB and pedestrian refuge island mentioned in the Gorrill-Palmer review, the BCM urges the designers for this project to include:

  • Sidewalks on the north side of Ocean Park Road extending west from Smithwheel approximately 400 feet.
  • A crosswalk across Smithwheel from the existing to the new sidewalk recommended above.
  • A continuation of the sidewalk on the west side of Smithwheel all the way to Ocean Park Rd.
  • A raised crosswalk to encourage drivers to slow down as they leave I-195

We also urge the designers to consider additional traffic calming measures that might include chicanes, rumble strips, and warning signs at this location.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns in more detail.  Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment.
James C. Tassé, PhD                                                                                                                       Assistant Director                                                                                                                          Advocacy Manager
Abby King
Bicycle Coalition of Maine                                                                                                        Bicycle Coalition of Maine