LEWISTON — The city continued its push toward a more pedestrian-focused transportation system by adopting a “complete streets” ordinance Tuesday, but the measure proved divisive among councilors.

With a 4-3 vote, a policy already in place to make sure city roads are designed to safely accommodate all users will now become an official ordinance.

Supporters, including city administration, say making the policy a city ordinance will ensure that design teams and engineers know Lewiston wants projects built with complete-streets standards in mind. 

The ordinance reads, “The City of Lewiston will plan for, design, construct, operate, and maintain an appropriate and integrated transportation system that will meet the needs of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, transit vehicles and riders, freight haulers, emergency responders, and residents of all ages and abilities.” 

Those opposed to the ordinance questioned why it’s needed if a policy is already in place, and said it will “handcuff” the council to comply.

The ordinance gives the council the power to make exceptions for certain projects, but Councilor Michael Lachance, among others, argued the council will only be asked once the majority of design work is complete. It puts the policy first, and council consideration second, he said. 

The Lewiston-Auburn Bike-Ped Committee, which up until now has been an ad hoc committee, will also become a standing committee with members from Lewiston and Auburn.

Auburn passed the complete streets ordinance in March with more support from its council. 

Councilor Joline Landry Beam was perhaps the deciding vote on the measure, but like those opposed to making it an ordinance, she questioned why it was needed. 

Craig Saddlemire, a leader of the Lewiston-Auburn Bike-Ped Committee, said having complete streets in city ordinance makes the standards more visible for state engineers. 

“There’s value to having the ordinance on the books,” he said.

Councilor Jim Lysen, who supported the measure, said transportation specialists know what complete-streets policies are. He said the ordinance will tell those designing projects, “This is the way things should be designed.”

“We want to make this community safe, and the ordinance will strengthen our position,” he said.

The city has been grappling with pedestrian-safety issues ever since a string of recent fatalities, and work has already been done on some problem intersections with more to come. 

Discussion surrounding safety measures has also continued recently, with forums held by state transportation officials in both Lewiston and Auburn, as well as an installation project as part of the Build Maine conference this week. 

Saddlemire said city staff currently brings complicated projects to the Lewiston-Auburn Bike-Ped Committee to get input on complete streets ideas, or to discuss possible exceptions to the standards.

He said public perception of the complete streets model is often that it’s only about adding bicycle lanes, but he said that is just one tool used. Unfortunately, he said, many city streets were not designed with bicycles or pedestrians in mind. 

Saddlemire said the model is meant to acknowledge different users who are using the road; “one that allows all users to safely, conveniently use that street.”

“It doesn’t just mean we put a bike lane on every street,” he said. 

Councilor Shane Bouchard said complete streets standards are “not appropriate in some places” and said what the city has been doing with the committee “is working.”

“This will start from a point of complete streets everywhere,” he said. “Just because there’s some manual somewhere that says it’s best practice in Houston, Texas, doesn’t mean it’s best practice in Lewiston, Maine.” 

According to City Administrator Ed Barrett, city staff knows that significant road projects should be brought to the council for consideration, meaning councilors would have a chance to see the design elements of a proposed project. 

One such project that has been designed using the complete streets model is the upcoming overhaul of the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge that spans the Androscoggin River. Road work on either side of the bridge in Lewiston and Auburn will also adapt the traffic configuration, down to one lane with a designated bike lane on the Lewiston side. 

Tuesday’s vote was a first reading and public hearing, and the ordinance will go to a final vote in two weeks. 

[email protected] 

A design image for upcoming work on the Bernard Lown Peace Bridge shows a shift to single-lane traffic with a designated bike lane. The design fits into complete-streets standards. 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: