Dunstan Corner project to start September 24, 2012

Work to ease traffic jams, set to begin Monday, will cause tie-ups. But it’ll be worth it in the end, town officials say.

SCARBOROUGH – Town Manager Tom Hall is confident that a few months of inconvenience will pay off for the thousands of people who drive through Dunstan Corner each day.

Crews will begin work Monday on a $4.5 million project to move the intersection of Payne Road and Route 1 to relieve congestion at Dunstan Corner, where bottlenecks and long waits are common, especially during summer. Officials predict the project will reduce traffic in the area by 20 percent.

“It’s going to be a headache for sure,” Hall said of the project. “It will be worth it in the end.”

The project will encompass the intersections of Route 1 with Payne Road, Broadturn Road and Pine Point Road. It will include relocating and rebuilding Payne Road, improving drainage, replacing curbs and water mains, and upgrading traffic signals.

Sidewalks and crosswalks will be improved to make the area more accessible for pedestrians, said Town Planner Dan Bacon.

Scarborough will pay 20 percent of the project’s cost, with the rest covered by federal and state funding. Work is expected to be complete by the end of June.

The most visible part of the project — and the one most likely to affect drivers — is the rerouting of Payne Road, which meets Route 1 next to the Dunstan Schoolhouse Restaurant.

Payne Road, as it exists now, will become a dead-end, and a new section will be built just north of the restaurant to connect to Route 1.

The intersection of Route 1 with Pine Point and Broadturn roads is now too close to the intersection of Route 1 and Payne Road, causing long lines of traffic, Hall said.

About 33,000 vehicles pass through Dunstan Corner on Route 1 each day, and 6,500 use Payne Road.

“The town really wants to push the (Payne Road) traffic toward the Haigis Parkway. That road can handle the truck traffic and more volume,” said Ernie Martin, project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation.

The new Payne Road-Route 1 intersection will still connect the two roads, but will be less direct than the intersection is now. That should push drivers who would normally take that route up to the Haigis Parkway, a mile north of Dunstan Corner, Hall said.

Heavy traffic through Dunstan Corner and on Payne Road has been a concern for town officials for years. The town worked with the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System “to get the project recognized as something of regional importance and significance,” and win support from the MDOT, Hall said.

The Dunstan Corner improvements are part of a broader effort to ease traffic congestion, improve safety and make Route 1 more convenient for drivers. Last year, the town completed a $2.35 million improvement project at the intersection of Route 1 and the Haigis Parkway. The project included new turning lanes, lights, traffic islands, landscaping and stone columns.

While the intent of the Dunstan Corner project is to improve traffic flow, an added benefit is the potential for future economic development in the area, say town officials. With the intersection working better, developers will have an easier time getting approval for projects, Bacon said. The project also will provide access to undeveloped land behind the plaza at 605 Route 1.

Dede Eaton, co-director of Magick Bridges Spiritual Enrichment and Healing Arts Center at 605 Route 1, said she is concerned that traffic delays could inconvenience customers.

“I feel it’s going to be disruptive, but ultimately it will be a benefit,” she said.

Eaton does worry that people “will miss us altogether” if they can’t easily see and get into the plaza. “It’s already difficult for everyone here because we are set back from the road,” she said.

Kim Adams, a manicurist at Nail Pro, also at 605 Route 1, said she isn’t concerned that the project will deter customers. She’s just glad that it will address the heavy traffic at the intersection that causes safety issues.

She eats lunch on the studio’s porch each day, and said she is amazed at the number of accidents when traffic is heavy. “The congestion is awful,” she said.

During construction, at least one travel lane will be open in each direction. Two lanes will be open during peak commuter hours. Some paving will be done overnight.

By Gillian Graham

Staff Writer

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