Main Street may be closed for art festival

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NORWAY – The Board of Selectmen has agreed to hold a public hearing on a plan to shut down Main Street for the art fair in July. The Maine Department of Transportation said it could not authorize the shutdown.

“They will not close the road but if the town chose to close the street, they will not disallow it,” Town Manager David Holt told the board at its meeting Thursday night.

The move to shut down Main Street, a state road, has been discussed for the past several years because of safety concerns, but it was not until recently that the town was able to get an answer from the state about closing the road.

The Western Maine Art Group fair will be held on July 10 this year on Main Street from Lynn Street/Greenleaf Avenue to Whitman Street and Pikes Hill. Officials say the Main Street sidewalks cannot hold both the art displays which are usually under pop-up tents and the pedestrians who often have to step into the street as they walk down Main Street to view the artwork.

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In a Feb. 25 letter to Andrea Burns, president of Norway Downtown, Gene Uhuad, Region 3 traffic engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said the town could exercise its police powers to reroute traffic in response to a local situation or event, but MDOT would not authorize the move.

Uhuad wrote, “If it (Norway) chooses to close Maine Street, it must be made clear to the public that this decision is being made by the town of Norway and not the MaineDOT, as the department has also received inputs opposing the closure.”

The MDOT has said that if the town decides to close the road, the department will require that a detour be set up to minimize the disruption to the normal flow of weekend traffic and to accommodate the volume and sizes of vehicles that normally use Routes 117 and 118 through Norway.

Police Chief Robert Federico said Thursday that detours would probably go from Whitman to Beal to Pearl streets, but they must be able to accommodate heavy trucks and fire and rescue vehicles.

Holt said he would like an opportunity for townspeople to express their concerns about the plan. He expects to set a public hearing date for as early as March 15 during the board’s next meeting.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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