Relining Auburn’s Court Street will wait a year

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AUBURN — The controversial plan to repaint part of Court Street’s lanes will wait at least until next summer.

Eric Cousens, Auburn’s deputy director of planning, said an engineering study of traffic impacts hasn’t been finished.

“We will discuss it over the winter and see if any changes can be tested next summer,” Cousens said in an email.

Auburn officials have been waiting for clearance from the state Department of Transportation for their plan to narrow Court Street between Turner Street and Spring Street by painting new lines.

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Auburn was hoping that fewer travel lanes would force traffic to slow down through the area, sending people just passing through downtown to find an alternate route. That would create a more walkable downtown district, promoting local businesses.

“But we’ve made Court Street, with its two lanes, the fast way to get through town,” Cousens said. “They made a conscious decision to make it that way and it’s been that way for more than two generations now. That’s why it’s so hard to consider changing it. We’ve all grown up with it as the fastest way through town.”

The newly painted lanes would take the street from two travel lanes in both directions to one travel lane each, with a turning lane down the middle.

New space on either side would be used to put on-street parking on the north side of Court Street, adding about 35 spaces.

Critics complained it would just create gridlock in both cities.

The Maine Department of Transportation’s initial computer model showed afternoon rush-hour traffic from Lewiston to Auburn dropping from 17 mph now to 7 mph after the new lanes. It also showed traffic backed up from Auburn across the Longley Bridge up Main Street and just past Sabattus Street.

Auburn was working on a new traffic model that made different assumptions. Cousens said the city has received an initial draft of the new study, but it’s not complete.

“We have a draft report from the engineer but would like to see some changes before he finalizes it,” Cousens wrote. “Because it’s not going to happen this year, even if DOT approves of it, we have prioritized other projects for now.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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