Oxford seeks state waiver for Casino and hotel intersection

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SPEED WARNING — The new speed indicator sign by the Hampton Inn and Oxford Casino intersection shows motorists traveling at various speeds, including this driver who was recently clocked three miles above the 50 mile per hour speed limit.

OXFORD — Town Manager Butch Asselin said he hopes the state will waive some or all of the town’s projected $150,000 share to redesign the intersection by the Oxford Casino.

Asselin told the Board of Selectmen at its Oct. 19 meeting that he hopes to speak to the Department of Transportation commissioner about a waiver sometime after the new year.

The DOT, local and state officials and public safety officials met in late summer to discuss their concerns about the safety of the intersection – the site of a double fatality and a second serious accident involving a motorist and an Oxford Casino shuttle this past summer.

As a result, the DOT recently detailed a plan that will reduce the speed in the area and redesign the intersection to eventually change the flashing yellow signal to a timed green-yellow-red sequence. Additionally a push button pedestrian crossing with an island will be installed.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously at the meeting to accept a $5,000 movable radar speed indicator sign from the Department of Transportation. It has been placed on Rte. 26 near the Oxford Casino intersection.

The speed sign is the first step that motorists will see in the eventual redesign of the traffic intersection.

Speed limits are expected to be slowed down from 50 to 40 miles per hour some 400 to 500 feet north and south of the Casino and Hotel entrances this year, followed by other improvements beginning next spring, Asselin said.

It is unclear exactly when the speed will be reduced, but Police Chief Jon Tibbetts said the speed will have to be lowered and motorists get used to it before the lights are signalized.

Concern has been expressed by both residents and local officials about the projected cost of the redesign project. Although a firm cost will not be available until the project goes out to bid, Oxford’s share has been estimated at about $150,000 – an amount that Asselin has said he doubts the town can afford at this time.

The DOT has proposed paying for the project using its Municipal Partnership Initiative program (MPI) that they say creates a fair and consistent basis for sharing the cost of major investments to the state highway. The program generally provides a 50/50 split between the state and a municipality. In this case a third party – the Oxford Casino – would create three-way split in cost sharing.

The state has partnered with municipalities and in some cases a third party for cost sharing on a number of occasions. The success is dependent on all parties coming up with their portion of the funding.

Maine Department of Transportation traffic engineer Steve Landry said earlier this month that it is unlikely the state would agree to set precedent by proceeding with the project before the town gets the go-ahead for funding.

Although the Hampton Inn is involved, it is through a previous agreement that makes the hotel liable for costs to develop a pedestrian crosswalk,  said Asselin.

The hotel was required by the state to put a pedestrian crosswalk in, but under its driveway entrance permit, it did not have to happen until the traffic light had been switched from blinking yellow to the green-yellow-red sequence.

Those costs for that part of the work are still the hotel’s responsibility.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net