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Lewiston council backs off Sabattus Street narrowing plan

LEWISTON — Sabattus Street won’t become an experiment in lane-narrowing, councilors voted Tuesday night.

The City Council spent 90 minutes discussing a plan to narrow Sabattus Street from four lanes to three — one lane in either direction separated by a turning lane — between Old Greene Road and Grove Street before voting it down.

“The real experts are the people who live there and the people who work there and the people who own businesses there,” Councilor Shane Bouchard said. “And better than 90 percent of them oppose this. This is not even close.”

Bouchard and councilors Tim Lajoie, Joline Beam and Mike Lachance voted against the matter and it failed.

The plans initially came forward as a way to help Community Credit Union build a new location at 895 Sabattus St. That project would have relied on those changes to make left turns into their property possible.

However, the company announced late in September that it was not going forward with its construction plan.

Narrowing the road was also designed to slow down traffic on outer Sabattus Street, making it easier for cross traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians to cross.

But Jason Cody of 688 Webster St., co-owner of Dubois Cafe & Variety, said the plans as drawn would put the merging traffic right in front of his restaurant entrance, making it difficult and unsafe for his customers.

“We have quite a bit of traffic with elderly people where this will cause them to have to possibly fear for their lives — that (by) turning into here, they will get hit,” Cody said. “Traffic is going to open up right when they turn their blinkers on. Too many people are in too big a hurry, so this is not the right place for it.”

Paul Madore of 805 Sabattus St. told councilors Sabattus Street has too much traffic for narrowing to work.

“Sabattus Street gets top-heavy with traffic, and I don’t see a single (turn) lane addressing that,” Madore said.

Councilors were torn on the issue. Lachance suggested repainting the street to have three lanes next week as a test. Drivers could use the new configuration before the state contractors made changes to the pavement, he said.

That idea didn’t win council support, however. For Bouchard, it came down to what neighbors wanted.

“This is about people, and our constituents and the experts who live in this area,” Bouchard said. “Maybe they are wrong, but it’s their home and where they make their business. As far as I’m concerned, as their city councilor, it’s their decision.”


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