More in Featured
Dangerous crossing prompts idea to reduce Falls Hill ascent to one lane
RUMFORD -- Last meeting, safety concerns about the dangerous crosswalk at the top of Falls Hill was discussed. Thursday, the Board of Selectmen went further by agreeing it might be a good idea to remove the passing lane going up Falls Hill.
Following a lengthy discussion, including public input, the board asked Town Manager Carlo Puiia to have a Maine Department of Transportation traffic engineer attend the board's next meeting. They want to ask him about the feasibility of reducing the ascent to a single lane. While the town does not have jurisdiction on the U.S. Route 2 road for things such as the speed limit, they do have control of how traffic lines are set on Falls Hill.
"We might want to consider one lane up the hill, with a breakdown lane on either side," he said. Bicycle lanes would also be a consideration.
Prompting concerns are drivers racing up the hill faster than 35 mph, with one in the passing lane trying to get in ahead of the other in the available four-tenths of a mile up the hill before the two lanes converge into one on a sharp curve.
Complicating the hazard is a crosswalk that is tough to see in the bottleneck atop the hill.
Puiia reported a bicyclist saw an instance when a pair of empty chip trucks were racing up Falls Hill.
Selectman Jolene Lovejoy noted, "It's an extremely dangerous section of road. What is the hurry to get up Falls Hill? That is an extremely dangerous section of road anyway with the turn when you get up to the top, and then it was a worse thing to put a crosswalk up there across that much of a traffic area.”
She said having the two lanes several years ago made more sense because tractor trailer trucks traveled uphill much slower, especially if they had big loads of wood. Now, those trucks are larger and have more powerful engines, but four-tenths of a
mile isn't much distance to require a passing lane.
“You have to run to get across,” said Selectman Brad Adley, who has an auto sales and repair business atop the hill.
Resident Andy Todd, an avid cyclist, said he is also worried.
“Recently, truck traffic, for some reason, is speeding up there, and my understanding is the more wood you can deliver, the more money you're going to make,” Todd said.
He said he's seen instances when a tractor-trailer truck is descending the hill while another is passing a slower truck while ascending the hill, leaving a scary ride for bicyclists trying to ascend or descend.
“I'm surprised there hasn't been a serious accident there yet,” Todd said. “I think what we're just trying to do is make it safer for everybody. For pedestrians at the top of that hill, that crosswalk is a very dangerous area.”
Selectman Jeff Sterling added that if someone is going 35 mph up that hill, you come around that last corner and have very little time if there's someone in that crosswalk. “I mean they don't know you're coming because they can't see you before you come around that corner, and you don't see them when you come around that corner. There's very little time to react even at 35."