Second accident prompts officials to study safety in Oxford

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CROSSOVER — The driver of the Casino Shuttle was attempting to cross over Route 26 into the driveway of the Hampton Inn when the accident happened.

OXFORD — Local and state officials and others will meet at the Oxford Casino and Hampton Inn intersection on Route 26, the site of two recent accidents including a double pedestrian fatality, to strategize ways to make the busy area safer.

Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said it’s time to bring everyone together after a series of accidents, including the recent crash on Saturday, Aug. 12, involving the Oxford Casino shuttle and a local motorist.

“Certainly after last weekend’s crash we would have gone out there anyway, but it’s best to bring all parties together,” Talbot told the Advertiser Democrat on Monday, Aug. 14.

Two people were sent to the hospital on Saturday when an Oxford Casino shuttle and a car collided at the same intersection where two hotel guests were struck and killed by a car just a few weeks earlier.

COLLISION — An Otisfield man was injured, along with the driver of the oxford Casino Shuttle when both collided at the Route 26 intersection of the Casino and the Hampton Inn.

Police Chief Jonathan Tibbetts said the weekend’s crash occurred just before noon when the Oxford Casino shuttle, a 2010 Ford E-350, and a 2010 Ford Fusion sedan collided, sending both vehicles off the roadway.

According to Tibbetts, Frank Clement, 70, of Mechanic Falls, the driver of the shuttle, which was crossing Route 26 to go to the Hampton Inn, was taken to Central Maine Medical Center with a possible neck injury.

Peter Rainey, 71, of Otisfield, the driver of the car that was driving south on Route 26 at the time of the accident, was taken to Stephens Memorial Hospital with a leg laceration and complaints of chest pain.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, said Tibbetts on Tuesday, Aug. 15.

The shuttle is used to transport guests from the Hampton Inn, located directly across the street, to the Casino and back. It is an on call service, so no records are available as to how often the shuttle is used to cross the busy roadway to the Hampton Inn, said Jane McClay Hoyt, advertising and public relations coordinator at the Oxford Casino.

This is the second serious accident in the past few weeks at the intersection, which has a blinking yellow light and a northbound left turning lane into the Casino and a southbound left turning lane into the Hampton Inn.

On July 25, two businessmen from Rhode Island were killed when they tried to walk across the intersection from the Oxford Casino to the Hampton Inn where they were staying after being struck by a pickup traveling north just before 11 p.m.

Tibbetts, who has been working with Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, on this issue, said there have been about five crashes in that area over the past three years.

He said several issues need to be addressed to improve the intersection including:

  • better lighting.
  • a pedestrian crossing – either by activating a street light or putting up pedestrian crossing signs with lights that flash when a button is pushed by a pedestrian.
  • lowering the speed limit to 40 mph.

“This [is a] poorly designed intersection where visibility is restricted both northbound and southbound. With the speed limit at 50 mph and with vehicles going 60 mph, there is little time for reaction,” said Tibbetts.

Talbot said he agrees that something needs to be done.

“We’ve been looking at that,” said Talbot of the need to review the intersection.

Casino officials say they are on board with the need to improve the intersection.

“We take safety very seriously, and we are concerned about the recent accidents at this intersection,” said McClay Hoyt. “Route 26 is a state highway and we have corresponded with MDOT on the traffic at the intersection. We will continue to work with MDOT and local officials to be in compliance with MDOT standards.”

At the Hampton Inn, officials had no comment.

Front Office Manager Andrew Cavanaugh said General Manager Sarah Stace was “in a meeting” and would not be available for comment on Monday, nor did they have a number to reach their corporate headquarters for comment. The company also had no response to the previous fatality.

Talbot said he hoped the site walk would garner the information necessary to determine the next step they might take to improve safety at the intersection.

Dillingham said she is working with DOT officials and others to arrange the meeting to review and discuss the situation. Along with Tibbetts, the DOT officials and herself, Dillingham said others who will be asked to attend include state Sen. Jim Hamper, R-Oxford, the Oxford town manager, members of the  Oxford Board of Selectmen, representatives from the Oxford Casino and the Hampton Inn, and other individuals who may be able to contribute to the conversation.

2013 entrance approval

The speed limit on Route 26 and the results of the traffic studies done by Eaton Traffic Engineering in 2013, indicated painted crosswalks and countdown signals were not required, according to the DOT driveway/entrance permit.

The October 2013 Eaton Traffic Engineering impact study that was completed for the Hampton Inn driveway/entrance approval by DOT estimated that 773 trips per hour would be made during peak evening hours throughout the property, which then consisted of the Oxford Casino and the proposed Hampton Inn.

Future plans called for a large development, including elderly housing, restaurants, retails stores, offices space, a second hotel and more.

The number of trips was subject to change depending on future developments and the peak trips for the area five years after construction was completed was not known at that time.

The permit also stated that if a traffic study determines in the future the traffic flow met the criteria, a pedestrian crosswalk with pedestrian signal heads and push buttons would be added on the north of the intersection. A protected signal head would be installed on the south turn lane.

Tim Soucy, a MDOT supervisor, told the Sun Media Group last month that once certain traffic volume requirements are met, the signal will change from flashing to green, red and yellow, and the signal will be considered fully functional

ldixon@sunmediagroup