A look at the intersection of Court Street and Minot Avenue in Auburn toward the Androscoggin River and Lewiston, background, on Wednesday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The first of three public meetings will be held Thursday to identify pedestrian, parking and traffic improvements along Court Street.

The meeting, at 6 p.m. in the Community Room at Auburn Hall, will offer a chance for residents to let traffic engineers know about issues in the area, which serves as a major thoroughfare for Lewiston-Auburn, and cuts through the heart of Auburn’s downtown.

According to a news release on the series of meetings, the study will focus on Court Street between the Androscoggin River and the intersection with Goff Street, and along Turner Street from Court to Hampshire streets.

George Peterson, a transportation planner for the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, said Wednesday that the study will include some detailed traffic analysis and a look at how to make the corridor more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

That will have to tie in, however, with efforts to manage traffic congestion, so that it “doesn’t turn into gridlock,” he said. According to Peterson, on-street parking and additional parking have been mentioned by a number of stakeholders.

A view of Court and Turner streets in Auburn on Wednesday afternoon.

The topic of the meeting will be, “What do people want Court Street to be?” Peterson said. “It’s a major thoroughfare, but it’s also Auburn’s downtown. So it’s those two very different situations trying to co-exist.”

The effort began in 2016, when the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, the federally mandated planning organization, teamed with a consultant to review all major arterials in its area, which includes Lewiston, Auburn, Sabattus and Lisbon.

Peterson said that effort focused on how to make the area more pedestrian-friendly and to follow what’s known as “complete streets” guidelines, which have been adopted more frequently in recent transportation projects.

Lewiston-Auburn has its own Complete Streets Committee, which makes recommendations on proposed traffic changes.

Now, the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center effort will get a little more specific, looking at the Court Street corridor that funnels a large number of vehicles between the Twin Cities daily.

“What happens on Court Street affects what happens in Lewiston, from a traffic perspective,” Peterson said.

A news release for the meeting calls the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center study the “Court Street Alternatives analysis,” and says the project will identify “feasible mobility improvement alternatives for bicycle, ADA and pedestrian safety, transit, parking access and circulation, and overall traffic throughout the Court Street corridor.”

According to Audrey Knight, the city planner in Auburn, the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center steering committee leading the study has held two meetings to review “existing conditions, data and past research and documentation.”

Data show that the corridor sees more than 30,000 vehicle trips per day, going across the bridge, and that a third of that traffic splits off or comes on at the Turner Street intersection.

Knight said the high number of accidents at all intersections along the corridor has also been discussed, but that because of “current limitations to the public right of way,” discussions have centered on looking at different treatments.”

Jeremiah Bartlett, a member of the L-A Complete Streets Committee, said Court Street was redesigned years ago to be “more of an urban highway than an urban street.”

He said because of that, he has “trepidation whenever I walk into town with my 6-year-old son for a treat at Break or a haircut at Apollo.”

“Unlike, say, Lisbon Street in Lewiston, it seems to be a real impediment to trying to bring back Auburn’s downtown, lost over the decades to dreams of urban renewal projects gone sour or never happening at all,” he said.

Knight said questions asked during Thursday’s meeting could include: “If there was only one physical change that could be made to the corridor, what would it be? Is there one intersection or section that is of most concern? How should the corridor and the downtown section of Turner Street be improved over the next 10 years to accommodate major new development in the Great Falls Plaza?”

Other questions listed by Knight would ask residents to list, in order of importance, how the corridor should provide space for parked cars, moving cars, pedestrians, transit stops or bicycles, and which intersections should give more weight to pedestrians than to cars.

A look at the intersection of Court Street and Minot Avenue in Auburn toward Goff Hill, left, on Wednesday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Peterson said when it comes time for implementation, it will have to come from a variety of sources. Given that it’s a state road, the Maine Department of Transportation is a major partner in both the study and any future projects.

The city recently completed a series of improvements to Hampshire Street, while a simultaneous deal to put a workforce housing project there led to parking concerns for the Auburn Public Library and surrounding neighborhood.

Also in the works in Auburn is the New Auburn Village Center Plan, which will develop a pedestrian road connecting to Mill and Broad streets, designed to provide access to new development sites, and a new greenway trail and dock.

When the city first advertised the public meeting on its Facebook page earlier this month, a few residents jumped at the chance to describe their experience downtown.

Peter Flanders wrote, “To promote taxable growth and safety; add parking, medians, bold crosswalks, four-way crossing lights, bike lanes, bump outs, turning lanes, and narrow to 2 lanes.”

Eric Yoder also responded.

“Well if you make it ‘more pedestrian friendly’ like you did Hampshire (Street), given the amount of traffic Court (Street) gets, I’ll find alternative routes,” he said.

Peterson said the second and third public meetings are tentatively scheduled for late September or early October, and November.


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