A view of Court and Turner streets in Auburn in July 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — A comprehensive traffic study of Court Street, one of the busiest corridors in central Maine, suggests dozens of intersection upgrades to make the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly.

A final report of the 50-page study was approved by the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center policy committee Thursday, and will be presented to Auburn officials next month.

Traffic engineers looked at each high-crash intersection stemming from Court Street and provided a final list of recommendations for each one.

“Pretty much the whole thing is a high-crash location,” said George Peterson, transportation planner at the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.

Among the recommendations in the report are installing rapid flash beacon systems and curb extensions at the intersections of Court and Pleasant streets and at Turner and Hampshire streets, where the crosswalk leads to the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA.

It also recommends eliminating one departure lane on Turner Street onto Court Street and converting the space to on-street parking.

The study was funded through the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, which contracted with engineering firm TYLin to do the traffic analysis.

A series of public meetings were held in Auburn regarding the study, where at least some feedback suggested closing lanes to slow traffic and make it easier for pedestrians to navigate the thoroughfare.

While some lane reductions were studied, especially at the Court Street intersections with Turner and Main streets, the report does not recommend them based on the impact it could have on traffic queues.

The report states that when TYLin modeled the proposed lane reduction at projected traffic volume levels, it caused “failures and delays that were not acceptable.”

According to Peterson, that meant projected traffic queues of some 8,000 feet — as far back as Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

But, Peterson said, the final report highlights a number of pedestrian-related improvements for Auburn officials to consider, which he said was the objective of the study.

“For each intersection, (TYLin) really looked at what we could do to really improve that pedestrian experience,” he said.

When the project was announced last year, officials said it would identify “feasible mobility improvement alternatives for bicycle, ADA and pedestrian safety, transit, parking access and circulation, and overall traffic throughout the Court Street corridor.”

The report also outlines future considerations for bicycle lanes, including reduced travel lanes to create buffered bicycle lanes on Longley Bridge, or a “shared lane configuration” on the bridge using pavement markings.

The study area included Court Street between the Androscoggin River and Goff Street, and Turner Street between Court Street and Hampshire Street.

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.

Mayor Jason Levesque said Thursday that city staff will be looking over the details of the study, and that the City Council is set to discuss the final report July 20.

He said the city will ultimately have to prioritize the recommendations, and determine which projects to fund, with either federal, state or local dollars.

Given that it’s a state road, the Maine Department of Transportation is a major partner in both the study and any future projects.

“It’s a lot to digest,” he said referring to the study. “Anything that revolves around transportation is never easy, or quick.”

Levesque said any city decisions will also have to take into consideration future growth and potential downtown revitalization. He said the next two years worth of roadwork in Auburn is largely planned.

According to the study, a base annual traffic volume growth rate of 0.55% was assumed for the 20-year study period, “based on forecasted regional activity and recent economic trends.”

For a full look at the report, go to www.avcog.org, or click here.


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