Build Maine participants walk past a traffic installation as part of the 2018 urban planning conference in Lewiston. Build Maine photo 

LEWISTON — Pay extra attention while driving on Bates, Main and Middle streets this week.

That is what the organizers of Build Maine are asking as the sixth annual urban planning conference returns to Lewiston on Wednesday and Thursday. There will be a slew of speakers and some new temporary traffic patterns to encourage motorists to slow down.

Build Maine organizer Kara Wilbur sent out a notice recently regarding this year’s conference and what to expect whether you are a motorist or a conference participant trying to navigate city intersections.

Wilbur worked with officials at City Hall and at Public Works to come up with the ideas, which will be installed by a group of participants in two separate “tactical urbanism” workshops Wednesday.

A description of the workshop states, “Learn the fundamentals, best practices, and low-cost strategies to reduce vehicular speeds, increase safety and comfort, and attract private sector investment.”

Perhaps the most noticeable this year will be intersection tweaks at Main and Middle streets, where a “left turn traffic calming” test will be installed using plastic bollards and temporary curb material placed inside the crosswalks.

According to Wilbur, it will require vehicles turning left to stay in their lane and not cut the corner, which slows down vehicle speeds through the intersection, reducing the risk of vehicles crashing into pedestrians or people on bicycles.

On Bates Street, an “advisory lane” will be created between Main Street and the Royal Oak Room. Some Maine communities, including Scarborough and Yarmouth, already have this kind of street, designed to reorder the space in the street to slow traffic and make it safer for people walking and biking. An advisory lane street has a dedicated center lane for two-way traffic, with no marked centerline.

On Thursday, a demonstration between noon and 2 p.m. will involve closing Middle Street to traffic temporarily for a test of 10-foot-wide traffic lanes. Wilbur said the demo will temporarily turn it into a two-way street, with large trucks from Public Works used to test the smaller lanes.

She said there is resistance to 10-foot lanes in designing traffic patterns, but it’s been shown to slow down vehicle.

The main venue this year is Iron Horse Court at 1 Bates St. where a list of speakers begins Thursday at 8:30 a.m. with talks on architecture, infrastructure, walkable cities and development. The Lewiston Public Library and The Pub at Baxter will also host events Wednesday.

Last year, the conference put a focus on tangible city projects like public art, including a mural by renowned street artist Arlin Graff on the Centreville parking garage.

In 2017, the organizers installed an ambitious traffic pattern on Lincoln Street, with protected bicycle lanes.

Wilbur said Monday the traffic tests each year are designed with the same goal: To “improve street safety through techniques that slow cars and make the streets better for people and business.”

She said changes to the design of streets to slow down vehicles has “been shown to save lives and support local economies.”

“Many people have identified the problem as that they don’t feel safe in their neighborhood,” she said. “People are putting in signs that say, ‘Drive like your kids live here.’ Kids live everywhere.”

For a full conference schedule, go to www.build-maine.com or click here.


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