LEWISTON — The City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to approve an amendment to make the Complete Streets System a city ordinance.

Previously a policy, the Complete Streets ordinance now 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.” 

The Complete Streets committee will spearhead plans to update roads around Lewiston.

“This is much more than a symbolic move to move to ordinance from policy. It enables the city to know this is the law of the land,” said Councilor Jim Lysen, who voted in favor of the ordinance. “This is about the health and safety of our city.”

There have been an alarming rate of pedestrian deaths, especially in Lewiston, and he said the council has to take responsibility. “We have to consider other modes of transportation and ensure their safety.” 

A Complete Streets System also protects drivers of cars from hitting someone, he said. “It’s our job to protect our citizens. This is a good thing.”

Those opposed to the ordinance argued that a policy is enough, and complete streets aren’t appropriate on every road in Lewiston.

Councilor Michael Lachance, who voted against the ordinance, believed there was too much focus on bicycle safety when Lewiston’s focus ought to be pedestrians. “We have a pedestrian safety issue. I don’t believe we have a bike safety issue. We need better and bigger sidewalks,” he said.

“Maybe there are parts where bike lanes would be good, but we need more crosswalks,” Lachance said. “A lot of this has a good intention, but it’s misguided in Lewiston. I do support the committee, but I don’t support the ordinance. “

Councilor Timothy Lajoie agreed that the ordinance “forces us to look at this in places where it doesn’t apply.” 

Lysen explained that the ordinance will allow for exemptions where the system setup is unnecessary or won’t fit. 

He also argued that the Complete Streets Ordinance will focus on all forms of transportation, especially pedestrians on foot and in wheelchairs. He said it will include more visible crosswalks and better lighting situations.

“There’s no question we need better sidewalks,” he said. “That’s part of the Complete Streets Ordinance, to promote sidewalks and safe crossings. We can’t stay stagnant. Being forward-looking is what we need to do.”  

Community member Shanna Cox, who lives at the corner of Ash and Bartlett streets, said her three children have to walk to school. “I wish they had a safer circumstance to do that under,” she said. She added that changing behavior is important, and that the ordinance will help the street changes be consistent around the city. 

Council President Kristen Cloutier said the ordinance is “about to make a commitment to this community and putting action behind our words. Three pedestrian deaths is too many.” 

Auburn passed the a Complete Streets Ordinance in March.

In other business:

• The council voted to give City Administrator Ed Barrett the same cost-of-living salary increase nonunion city employees receive. He previously had to make an appeal to the City Council every year. 

• The council voted to authorize issuing $49.75 million from the state to construct and equip the Robert V. Connors School, and voted to authorize the city’s payment of $2.15 million toward the gymnasium, artificial turf, and to fully air condition the building. 

• Tuesday was Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau’s last official City Council meeting. His resignation is effective June 30. He is retiring after 18 years with the city. 

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