Looking at Front Street on foot

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FARMINGTON — A developing area of town, Front Street, was the focus of Monday’s “walkability” workshop from which suggestions for improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists were raised.

“There needs to be a balance for all users. Roads are not just for cars and trucks but also pedestrians and bikers,” Joan Walton, transportation planner from the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, said. 

With funding from the Maine Department of Transportation, Walton has held several similar audits or planning walks in other towns. Ideas generated during the walk will be included in her report along with a strategy and timeline for potential implementation that is sent back to the town.

It’s then up to the town, based on their will and costs, to implement, she said. Farmington is already “looking good,” she said.

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Most communities use these sessions to look at ways to improve their Main Streets. Farmington has pretty well preserved the downtown area, lending the opportunity to look at a side street running parallel to Main, she said.

The need for sidewalks and crosswalks and clarification of business entrances/exits were discussed as a few residents and town officials braved cloudy skies and strolled from The Company building down to the intersection with the Intervale.

Bobbie Hanstein, Conservation Commission chairman, asked about clarification of crosswalks from Hippach Field across the busy state road, Route 4, called the Intervale. The commission met with a  representative from the Maine Department of Transportation last fall over concerns about people crossing from ball games to Gifford’s, McDonald’s and to parked vehicles along the street, she said.

The discussion turned to three spaces, esplanades, with potential plants or trees in front of Gifford’s and Cumberland Farms that would extend from a sidewalk into the street area, where 20,000 vehicles pass each day, to draw attention to a crosswalk and better define entrances to businesses. The spaces would provide “traffic calming” or a way to slow traffic and alert drivers to potential pedestrians.

Other suggestions for improving Front Street include better lighting, especially from Notify MD to Route 4. Also suggested were a rest stop with benches near Notify MD and across the street, where the town owns 12 acres (formerly used for placing removed snow), the creation of extra parking spaces.

The town may only have a right of way into the town-owned space, Davis said.

There should be a bike rack for every business, Walton said.  

During her presentation prior to the walk, Walton also pointed out sides of the road where overlays of paving didn’t extend as far as before. The difference in heights of pavement is dangerous for bikers, she said.

Another concern is a green hedge growing partially over a sidewalk on the curved corner as Front Street intersects with Broadway. Walton encouraged the town to initiate talks with the landowner about trimming the hedge growth.

The Farmington Downtown Association has already worked on providing better sidewalks and lowering the height of the sidewalk around the corner at Broadway. There is some engineering work that needs to be done around a rock retaining wall, so the work is expected to begin next year, Davis said.

Funding from Community Development Block Grants will be used for the sidewalk work on Front Street and work on Pleasant Street in back of Meetinghouse Park. The Pleasant Street work begins this summer.

A parking area just north of McDonald’s on Front Street could encourage people to park and walk to downtown or to Hippach Field, Donna Keaten suggested.

While ideas expressed were nice, the stairway connecting Main and Front streets previously proposed by Franklin Savings Bank would do more for the street than any of the other ideas, Cheryl Van Messel said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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