Traffic on Route 4, top and bottom, flows Thursday afternoon in Turner at its intersection with Route 117, left and right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

TURNER – Town officials this week said they are unsure where a Maine Department of Transportation project to make safety improvements to one of the town’s high-crash intersections stands since a public meeting held earlier this summer.

Town Manager Kurt Schaub said Wednesday that the town had “several meetings” earlier this year with MDOT to discuss safety improvements at the intersection of Routes 4 and 117.

“They had developed a plan for, to improve the intersection to hopefully reduce the number of incidents,” Schaub said.

Since at least 2013, MDOT categorizes the intersection of Route 4, or Auburn Road, and Route 117, or Buckfield Road westbound from Route 4 and Turner Center Road eastbound, a high-crash location. It’s defined as an intersection or section of a highway or road that has had at least eight crashes and has a critical rate factor of more than one during a three-year period.

A critical rate factor is a calculation from MDOT to measure the safety of a location relative to similar locations throughout the state. A critical rate factor of less than one means the location is safer than similar locations and a factor of more than one means it is more dangerous.

From 2018 to 2020, there were 14 crashes at the Route 4/117 intersection, and it had a critical rate factor of 2.9. From 2016 to 2018, there were 16 crashes, one of which was fatal. The critical rate factor was 3.2, according to MDOT data presented at the June public meeting.


The “vast majority” of crashes are of northbound vehicles on Route 4 colliding broadside with vehicles traveling both east and westbound on Route 117, project manager Brandon Havu, an engineer with HNTB Corp., said at the June meeting.

Traffic on Route 4, top and bottom, flows Thursday afternoon in Turner at its intersection with Route 117, left and right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

That meeting was actually a series of prerecorded videos by the project manager and engineer, which is a typical format for MDOT public meetings. Residents could submit public comments through a forum during a two-week period in June; the forum remains open though MDOT says it may not review comments in a timely manner. The videos and other meeting materials remain accessible on the MDOT website, although submitted public comments are not available on the website.

As of the June presentation, MDOT’s $1.9 million plan is to widen the northbound and southbound approaches on Route 4 and reconfigure the lanes to add a “flush concrete island” that would separate the through lane and the right turn lane on both sides of the intersection, Havu said.

The island will “help clear the sight light” for vehicles on Route 117, he said.

“The separation of traffic here for the right-turning vehicles will help folks on Route 117 better interpret whether a vehicle intends to enter the intersection or turn right onto one of the legs,” of Route 117.

There is “fairly minimal work” planned for Route 117, Havu said. It would mostly be improvements of what is already out there and some widening of the road as necessary.


The plan also included replacing the flashing beacon at the center of the intersection with an updated version. The biggest difference with the current version is the addition of a couple more signals “to increase visibility.”

MDOT highway program senior project manager Rhobe Moulton said at the meeting that the impact studies and the right of way process would begin “soon after this meeting” and would be completed in spring of 2023. Bids would go out in the summer or fall of 2023.

“We thought that was pretty well cast in stone,” Schaub said this week, so “we were actually taken a little by surprise there.” The last he heard was that following the public comment period in June, MDOT reconfigured its design to add a traffic signal at the intersection.

Schaub said adding a traffic signal at that intersection had already been discussed and dismissed by the Planning Board and the Comprehensive Plan Committee. Many expressed “some very serious concerns” that trucks traveling southbound on Route 4, which has about a slight downward slope, would be unable to stop.

He said there was also some concern that trucks traveling northbound on Route 4 would be unable to make it up the hill from a dead stop.

The speed limit on Route 4 is 45 miles per hour. The Route 117 speed limit is 25 miles per hour heading eastbound and 30 miles per hour heading westbound.

“We are aware of a number of people in town that are very concerned that a traffic light would not be the way to go at this intersection,” Schaub said. “The sense that I get is that a signal might not achieve the results that they’re seeking,” in terms of improving safety.

The town manager said that since that June meeting, he hasn’t heard anything directly from MDOT. There were no updates to the project plan on MDOT’s website. An email to Moulton sent Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: