RUMFORD —  In April, selectmen decided to aggressively pursue removing the passing lane of U.S. Route 2 as it ascends Falls Hill, after safety concerns were raised.

The board also wanted bicycle lanes or breakdown lanes marked on either side of the road, and said they would consider reducing the speed limit from 35 to 25 mph.

Prompting concerns are drivers racing up the hill faster than 35 mph, with one in the passing lane trying to get in ahead of the other in the available four-tenths of a mile up the hill before the two lanes converge into one on a sharp curve.

Complicating the hazard is a crosswalk that is tough to see in the bottleneck atop the hill.

That crosswalk has since been re-sited and marked perpendicular to the road rather than crossing the road diagonally, which placed pedestrians in harms way for a longer stretch across the busy two-lane highway.

However, at Thursday night’s board meeting, traffic engineer Gene Uhuad of the Maine Department of Transportation, advised against removing what he referred to as the trucking, or slow lane.

Instead, Uhuad said the board should purchase and install yellow flashing pedestrian crossing lights at the crosswalk telling drivers to use caution.

While it’s the town’s responsibility to erect such lights, it’s the state’s duty to regulate the traffic flow up and down the hill, Uhuad said.

Uhuad said the slow lane going up the hill is still a necessity despite technological improvements to tractor-trailer engines.

“A lot of loaded trucks cannot make it up that hill as other trucks,” he said.

Should the slow lane be removed, Uhuad said it would create a scary scenario that would have trucks driving uphill and passing other trucks by using the oncoming traffic lane.

Board Chairman Greg Buccina suggested moving the passing lane merge back down the hill so trucks and traffic are not arriving simultaneously at the bottleneck atop the hill where the two lanes merge into one right before the crosswalk.

Uhuad said he would examine that idea more closely and report back to the board with his findings.

When asked if it’s possible to reduce the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph near the top of the hill or for the whole drive up, Uhuad said it’s been his experience that speed limit violators would still violate that.

Then, trying to enforce that, would overburden the police department.

“We’re just trying to make it safer,” Buccina said before thanking Uhuad for attending the meeting and agreeing to seek possible solutions.

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