Center Street in Auburn leads to Mt. Gile, background, in February 2022. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

AUBURN — The Twin Cities will benefit from federal funding that could help address pedestrian safety at several high-accident corridors, including Center Street in Auburn and Main Street in Lewiston.

The funding was announced Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, with a total of $863,382 headed to four projects intended to improve pedestrian safety across the state. According to a news release, Maine set a record of 21 pedestrian deaths in 2022.

The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments received $200,000 for a “corridor improvement study” to be conducted by the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center. Its focus will be high-accident corridors such as the Veterans Memorial Bridge area that links Auburn and Lewiston, as well as the “primary feeder arterials” of Center Street in Auburn and Main Street in Lewiston.

Between 2016 and 2020, there were 31 motor vehicle fatalities in the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center region, and during the same period, 10% of the 2,592 injury-involved crashes within the region occurred within the proposed project corridor.

Jonathan LaBonte, transportation systems manager for the city of Auburn, said Wednesday that Auburn is excited about its potential to transform Center Street.

He said the funding will allow the cities to formulate a plan for improvements that is in line with the federal safety initiative Vision Zero, and once that happens, the region can pursue significant funding. The federal funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which established the program aiming to achieve zero deaths and no serious injuries on roads throughout the United States.


LaBonte said Center Street has always been a commercial and retail hub for Auburn, but as Auburn sees more demand for housing development, the Center Street — and Route 4 — corridor is in even more need of improvements.

He said pedestrian access is essentially “nonexistent,” with crosswalks that are three quarters of a mile apart.

“Pedestrians aren’t walking that to cross, and then come back,” he said, which means people often risk crossing in non-marked areas. “We’re eager to kick-start this process to greatly pursue safety.”

Mary Ann Brenchick, director of Lewiston Public Works, said the corridor improvement study will “enhance” the projects the city already has underway, including separate grant funds for pedestrian improvements.

Brenchick said the City Council will be asked to approve grant funding for upgrades at three intersections at the upcoming Feb. 7 meeting, which the city will match with its dollars.

LaBonte said the Veterans Memorial Bridge corridor was designed as an arterial between the two cities at a time when the Auburn Mall area and vehicular traffic were greatly prioritized. That meant pedestrians were an afterthought at best. He said as recently as the early 2000s, a master plan for the mall area prioritized getting as many cars as possible in the area.


“Both cities are interested in revisiting the ’70s and ’80s means of transportation,” he said.

According to LaBonte, the most recent study of Center Street traffic was done in 2008, but was shelved due to concerns from property owners along the route. He said the new look will allow the city to revisit alternatives.

“Over the past several years, Maine has experienced record numbers of pedestrian deaths, which in many cases are the heartbreaking consequence of poor road designs,” Collins said in the news release. “By eliminating hazardous conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike, we can help Mainers reach their homes and jobs safely and more quickly.”

In Lewiston, a 2018 study on pedestrian crossings suggested a series of upgrades at five of the city’s busiest corridors, including two Main Street intersections. Brenchick said some of those recommendations have been implemented. The city had previously completed upgrades at Main and Frye streets, where a 13-year-old student was struck and killed in 2016.

In December, two pedestrian accidents, including one death, occurred in a single night. Those accidents occurred at intersections on Lisbon Street and East Avenue, and on Park Street.

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