Council Worries That Multiple Speed Reduction Requests Could Signal Bigger Problems

Town works toward other speed mediation solutions while waiting for MDOT response

BAR HARBOR—The residential areas of Bar Harbor might be having some traffic issues far away from downtown proper and the heavily touristed areas.

Whitey Carpenter led other residents in his neighborhood during the public hearing at the Town Council meeting September 20. The council continued to support sending a speed limit reduction request to the Maine Department of Transportation, but many members worried that the multiple speed limit reduction requests that they are seeing is indicative of a bigger problem. There was recently a similar request in a residential area on Bay View Drive and Hadley Point Road.

Many residents on Highbrook Road, Bloomfield Road, Cleftstone Drive and Champlain Road requested a speed reduction. The first step in that request is typically a letter from residents, then residents address the town council. There is often a public hearing and then a request is sent to the Maine Department of Transportation. That state agency is in charge of creating and changing speed limits on local roads. Public comments during the public meeting can be collated and become part of the town’s request to the MDOT.

Carpenter was adamant about the need for the change, saying that the roads curve and there are no sidewalks or bike lanes. Tourists are often lost up there, he said.

“Cars are blasting through there. It’s nuts.” He added, “I’d like you to put a request in to the DOT and have them do something.”

The council also listened to another resident who lives on Champlain talk about 50% of motorists ignoring stop signs and that tour busses also “blow right through the stop sign.” Both speakers also complained about the school bus drivers.

The current speed limit is 25 mph and they’d like it to be lowered to 20.

Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt said that there could be something done at one of the intersections to try to calm traffic that might be a more permanent solution than seasonal speed bumps, which Councilor Gary Friedmann advocated for. Those bumps could also be used in conjunction with any more permanent measures that Leavitt enacts.

“I’ve seen speed bumps in other towns and they really do calm the traffic,” he said.

Friedmann was concerned that the DOT would take too long to deal with the problem and asked to amend the motion to have the town manager look toward speed calming solutions in the meantime. It was unanimously approved.

The police department collected data in the area for several days, which did not show an abundance of speed violations.

In a memo to Town Manager Kevin Sutherland, Police Chief James Willis wrote, “The speed trailers were displaying speeds as a traffic calming measure, so this data isn’t likely useful if a DOT speed limit request is made.”

The data is collected via the speed trailers.

Goldthwait said the problem is bigger than the data. “There are four neighborhoods now asking for lowering the speed limit. If there is a plus ten tolerance that means that the effective speed limit is 35.” This is for a 25 mph road and the plus-ten tolerance refers to when police actually begin to start pulling someone over for speeding. It is usually when that vehicle is ten mph or more over the speed limit.  She also noted that many vehicles are slowing down prior to getting to the sign and having their speed registered.

“There’s a lot of cut throughs going on,” Councilor Joe Minutolo said, wondering aloud if most of the traffic is locals trying to make up a bit of time. “That’s a skinny, narrow road.”

Councilor Erin Cough said that the data showed that for an eight-day period on Highbrook Road, 900 cars travelled east. “For a residential neighborhood, that’s impressive,” she said.  

Another road had 1,234 vehicles in five days. Another summary read that 826 vehicles travelled northbound on Cleftstone  during a five-day stretch. The survey was conducted in late August.

Councilor Matthew Hochman said, “I definitely support sending this to MDOT and hoping they can do the study.”

The time of year that the DOT creates a study is important, Goldthwait said.

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Learn More!

Council packet

To view the town council meeting.

Past Stories:

Town Council Weighs in On Rental Registrations, Parking Space, and Lowering Speed Limits in Local Neighborhood

Neighbors Request Lowering Roads’ Speed Limits

Another earlier story about speed limit requests

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