October 3, 2012

Winthrop approves federally funded rumble strips construction on Route 202

BY WENDELL SCOTT Correspondent

WINTHROP -- The town is OK with the state's plan to install rumble strips on U.S. Route 202, a move that aims to cut down on accidents on the busy road.

The work will all be done on the federal government's dime, U.S. Department of Transportation officials told the Town Council Monday night.

Federal transportation officials told councilors they needed approval from the town before the project on the road, which has a history of serious accidents, could proceed.

The plan is to install rumble strips down the center of the road and the shoulders from the eastern town line at Augusta Country Club, through town to the western end, near Barrows Chevrolet.

Construction is expected to begin next spring, provided the project receives final approval on the federal level.

Councilwoman Linda Caprara, the only dissenter in the 5-1 vote, said she was concerned that the noise the strips would make would bother residents and have a negative impact on businesses along the road. She also wondered how effective they are at preventing accidents.

But Councilman Lawrence Fitzgerald said Department of Transportation data showed that rumble strips are effective.

Rumble strips alert drivers to the fact they are crossing onto the shoulder, or crossing the center line. Transportation officials say that many accidents, particularly ones in which a car crosses a center line, are the result of driver inattention, and the rumble strip gets the driver's attention.

U.S. 202 in Winthrop, which has a speed limit of 55 in many places, has been the site of many fatal head-on collisions, the most recent of which was in August. Rosemaire Lola, 44, of Winthrop, crossed the center line near the East Winthrop post office and hit a truck head-on.

Councilwoman Sarah Fuller said there seemed to be little public interest in the proposal, and the road work next year may be an unwelcome surprise to town residents.

The council on Monday also:

* Approved new rules for the transfer station's item reuse area, splitting it into one section for free items and one that would require a fee payment to take the item and would include things like large appliances.

* Approved an amendment to the town's tax increment financing program for the development of the Winthrop Commerce Center, which is downtown at the site of the former Carleton Woolen Mill. Under the amendment, the town offers incentives to further improve the Commerce Center, while at the same time excluding any increase in the value of the property from the town's overall assessment, thus protecting the town's subsidies from the state.

Beginning in 2017, tax revenues generated by the program will flow to designated projects, such as the development of bicycle and walking paths. The town estimates the program's revenues for 2017 will be $65,000.

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