Turner seeks legislative help to detour state traffic signal plans

Mar. 14—TURNER — Local officials are hoping a proposed piece of legislation will counter a Maine Department of Transportation plan to install a traffic signal at the hazardous junction of Routes 4 and 117.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Jeff Timberlake, a Turner Republican, would instead force the MDOT to put a new traffic light at the intersection of Route 4 and Weston Road, about a mile away from the location eyed by state traffic experts.

Meghan Russo, legislative manager for MDOT, told the Transportation Committee last week that the bill is "an attempt to circumvent" her department's work plan process, "something we historically oppose."

She did say, though, that state and town officials will meet soon to talk about the issues involved and search for a compromise. Timberlake said the legislative panel shouldn't take any action until that session occurs.

Turner's manager, Kurt Schaub, told lawmakers, "We appreciate the department's intention but believe this approach may create more problems than it resolves."

Timberlake told the committee that once the Weston Road signal is in place, his bill calls on the department to conduct a one-year study to figure out if one is also needed at the junction with Route 117.

The lawmaker said the signal sought by MDOT as soon as this summer "will not make it safer" because heavy trucks "will not have sufficient distance to stop once they're aware of a red signal, and stopped traffic, at the bottom of the hill that approaches this intersection from the north."

Plus, Timberlake said, "Loaded trucks heading north will have difficulty making it up the hill from a complete stop."

"Neither situation bodes well for safety nor for the reasonable movement of traffic," Schaub said.

He said the town, which has raised questions about the plan for years, would like to see if a signal at Weston Road "will work in concert with the signal at Snell Hill Road less than half a mile to the south to create gaps long enough for east-west traffic to more safely cross Route 4."

Schaub said officials can reevaluate the need for the Route 117 signal after they see how things work out with the Weston Road signal.

Russo said the Weston Road signal project is currently slated to begin in 2025. The Route 117 signal project is going out for bid this year.