DOT public meeting set for casino crossing

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Maine Department of Transportation officials will announce plans for safety improvements at the Oxford Casino/Hampton Inn crossing on Route 26 on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

OXFORD — The Maine Department of Transportation will unveil its plan to improve pedestrian safety on Route 26 between the Oxford Casino and Hampton Inn on Oct. 11.

The public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Town Office.

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Steve Landry, an engineer with MDOT, will review the conceptual drawing of the new crossing.

While it’s not clear what the final plans are, MDOT officials in August agreed during a site visit that the traffic light should be activated and the speed limit lowered in front of the casino. Other safety measures would also be considered, officials said.

The area is the site of several accidents, including a double pedestrian fatality earlier this summer. On July 25, two businessmen from Rhode Island were killed when they were struck by a pickup truck traveling north just before 11 p.m. while walking from the casino to the hotel.

Two people were sent to the hospital Aug. 12 when a casino shuttle and car collided when the shuttle attempted to cross the road to the hotel to pick up guests.

Local and state officials and others, including representatives from the casino and the Hampton Inn, met at the site on Aug. 23 to come up with ways to make the area safer. One suggestion was to switch the traffic light from flashing yellow to a timed green-yellow-red sequence.

Oxford Police Chief Jon Tibbetts, who attended that meeting, said Monday that he was not asked for any input into proposed improvements by MDOT following the visit but that he will be at the meeting Oct. 11.

Tibbetts, who worked with state Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, to set up visit in August, has advocated for improvements to the area, including better lighting, a pedestrian crossing and lowering the speed limit to 40 mph.

In August Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for MDOT, said the price tag for improvements could be between $150,000 and $300,000. MDOT has agreed to pay one-third of the cost if the rest is paid by others, such as the casino, the hotel and the town.

In 2011, MDOT held an informational meeting with town officials and residents to hear concerns about traffic before it issued a traffic permit to Black Bear Entertainment, which owned Oxford Casino at the time.

Landry said at that time preliminary plans indicated a traffic light would be likely at the casino entrance, as would turning lanes for both northbound and southbound traffic, and that an island would be a possibility to separate northbound and southbound traffic and to prevent head-on collisions. Neither the island nor an activated traffic signal were put into place at that time.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

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