DIXFIELD — Fire Chief Scott Dennett addressed the issue of toll bridge donations frequently set up on Main Street/Rt. 2 in Dixfield at the Select Board meeting on June 17.
“We have been an above normal number of organizations that have set up toll bridges in the area of the Main Street and High Street intersection. My principal concern is the safety for all participants,” he noted.
Dennett said, “Earlier this year, I observed an incident where there were only children in the roadway. While the speed limit is supposed to be 25 miles per hour, we all know that is not the average speed. Main Street/Rt. 2 is a busy east-west highway, especially in the summer.”
He said that as a fire chief, he is prevented by Maine law from allowing junior firefighters (anyone under the age of 18) to participate in any traffic safety incidents. “To me, allowing any individuals under the age of 18 to be in the roadway for a toll bridge compares to a traffic safety incident as they are in the path on oncoming traffic, from both directions, and are attempting to deter the flow of normal traffic.”
Dennett said one of the toll bridges was going on during a recent emergency response. “While we were able to proceed with caution, had there been a backup of vehicles in both directions, as there commonly is, we could have been further delayed in our response.”
He said that in his opinion, toll bridges should only be allowed on an extremely limited basis (2-4 times per year), not allowed on any holiday weekend, and only opened to Dixfield resident organizations, prohibit anyone under the age of 18 to be present on the roadway, require the use of pre-notification signs well in advance of the collection site, require all participants to have a basic traffic safety training, require traffic safety cones, and require the use of safety vests by all individuals in the roadway. “I would gladly provide the last two items from the fire department with an advance request.”
Dennett added, “I’m not suggesting the prohibition of them. I’m concerned about safety issues regarding them. I think some minimum level of safety measures need to be addressed. I think this would be a good time to kind of move towards it.”
Town Manager Alicia Conn said there have been four toll bridges this year, which is more than in years past. And not all of them involved Dixfield people. She added that the town does not have an ordinance regarding toll bridges.
Board Chair Richard Pickett added that he would like to have the select board look further into this issue.

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