DOT public meeting set for Casino crossing

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LIGHTS — DOT officials will announce plans for safety improvements at the Oxford Casino/Hampton Inn crossing on Route 26 on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

OXFORD — The Department of Transportation will unveil its plan to improve safety on a stretch of Route 26 by the Oxford Casino and Hampton Inn crossing in two weeks.

The public meeting will be held at the Oxford Town Office beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

At that time, DOT Engineer Steve Landry will review the conceptual drawing of the new crossing of Route 26 by the Oxford Casino and Hampton Inn.

While it is unclear what the final plans are, in August DOT officials agreed during a site walk that the traffic light should be activated and the speed limit lowered in front of the Oxford Casino. Other safety measures would also be under consideration, state officials said.

The area is the site of several accidents including a double pedestrian fatality earlier this summer. On July 25, two businessmen from Rhode Island were killed when they tried to walk from the Casino to the hotel and were struck by a pickup traveling north just before 11 p.m.

Two people were sent to the hospital Aug. 12 when a Casino shuttle and a car collided when the shuttle attempted to cross the road to the hotel to pick up guests.

Local and state officials and others, including representatives from the Casino and the Hampton Inn across from the Casino, met at the site on Aug. 23 to strategize ways to make the area safer. One of the suggestions was to switch the traffic light from flashing yellow to a timed green-yellow-red sequence.

Police Chief Jon Tibbetts, who attended the site meeting, said Monday, Sept. 25, that he was not asked for any input into the proposed improvements by the DOT following the site walk but he will be at the Oct. 11 meeting.

Tibbetts, who worked with state Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, to set up the site walk in August, has advocated for improvements to the area, including better lighting, a pedestrian crossing – either by activating a traffic light or putting up pedestrian crossing signs with lights that flash when a button is pushed by a pedestrian – and lowering the speed limit to 40 mph.

The price tag for preliminary improvements could run between $150,000 and $300,000, Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the DOT, told those participating at the August site walk meeting. The DOT has agreed to pay a third of the cost, if the rest is paid by others such as the Casino, the hotel and the town.

In 2011, the DOT held an informational meeting with town officials and residents to hear concerns about traffic as it prepared to issue a traffic permit to then-Oxford Casino owner Black Bear Entertainment.

At that time, Landry said preliminary plans indicated a traffic light would be likely at the Casino entrance, as would turning lanes for both northbound and southbound traffic and an island would be a possibility to separate northbound and southbound traffic and prevent head-on collisions. Neither the island or an activated traffic signal were put into place at that time.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net