OXFORD — State Department of Transportation officials have agreed to activate the traffic light and lower the speed in front of the Oxford Casino on Route 26, after two pedestrians were killed and two motorists injured there this summer.

Local and state officials and others, including representatives from the casino and the Hampton Inn across from the casino, met at the site Wednesday afternoon to strategize ways to make the area safer. One move will be to switch the traffic light from flashing yellow to a timed green-yellow-red sequence. 

“People are going to wait a bit, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the DOT, said. The activation may not happen until next spring, she said, but it will be done before the traffic count reaches the DOT threshold normally required to install traffic lights on a state road.

To initiate the safety improvements, Taylor said the DOT will reduce the speed about 400 to 500 feet north and south of the casino and hotel entrances, which are across from each other. That could happen as soon as two to three weeks.

Taylor and DOT traffic engineer Steve Landry said the next steps will be to design an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant walkway with lights that assist pedestrians to safely cross the four-lane highway. It would probably be installed with a center island for pedestrians to stand on if they get caught between lights.

“We don’t want to turn on the lights and just have people cross,” Taylor said. “They may be sitting ducks.”

The price tag could run between $150,000 and $300,000, Taylor said. The DOT has agreed to pay a third of the cost, if the rest is paid by others such as the casino, the hotel and the town.

It is anticipated that the remaining safety improvements would not take place until next spring or summer, depending on whether the money is appropriated, how soon the specs can be developed and the availability of electrical contractors.

On July 25, two businessmen from Rhode Island were killed when they tried to walk from the casino to the hotel and were struck by a pickup traveling north just before 11 p.m.

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

Taylor and Landry, along with DOT legislative liaison Meghan Russo, met at the site with state Reps. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, and Lloyd “Skip” Herrick, R-Paris, state Sen. Jim Hamper, R-Oxford. Also there were Oxford Town Manager Butch Asselin, Police Chief Jon Tibbetts, Police Lt. Mike Ward, Fire Chief Gary Sacco and Selectmen Pete Laverdiere, Ed Knightly and Scott Hunter. Also attending were casino General Manager Jack Sours and Hampton Inn General Manager Sarah Stace.

Taylor and Landry said they will return to their office and brainstorm other possible safety measures, including blinking lights that may slow drivers down as they approach the lower speed lanes.

“Our job now is distracting the distracted driver,” Taylor said.

Tibbetts, who worked with Dillingham to set up the meeting, has advocated for improvements to the area. He asked for better lighting, a pedestrian crossing – either by activating a traffic light or putting up pedestrian crossing signs with lights that flash when a button is pushed by a pedestrian — and lowering the speed limit to 40 mph.

Taylor said she was surprised to see the increase in traffic Wednesday, compared to when she last drove through the area.

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Local and state officials and others met Wednesday afternoon to discuss safety improvments to the four lanes of Route 26 in front of Oxford Casino and the Hampton Inn in Oxford. The area has been the site of two pedestrian fatalities this summer.

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