OXFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Changes are on the way for what’s become a dangerous stretch of roadway outside one of the state’s two casinos.
The deaths of two pedestrians, followed by the crash of a casino shuttle, are the push behind safety improvements to the area outside the Oxford Casino. State transportation officials, lawmakers, police and representatives of the casino met at the intersection today to come up with ways to prevent further incidents from happening in that area.
Late last month a pick-up truck struck and killed two businessmen from Rhode Island who were crossing Route 26 from their hotel to the casino. People walking across the busy roadway, where there is no crosswalk, was a concern of police when the hotel first opened in December.
“A lot of people in town predicted that was going to happen. We felt this was a very dangerous intersection”, said Oxford Police Chief Jonathan Tibbetts.
A few weeks later a shuttle bus carrying people from the hotel to the casino collided with a car injuring two people. Chief Tibbetts says the speed limit here should be reduced.
“Right now it’s a 50 mile an hour zone, most people go 60. I’d like to see it dropped to 40, maybe even lower”, he said.
Maine Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor says that’s one of several options being considered, along with changing the flashing red and yellow traffic signals to solid green and red lights.
“Sadly, part of our job now is to distract the distracted driver”, she said.
Putting a crosswalk in is another option, but Taylor says that may encourage pedestrians to walk across Route 26. If one does go in, she says it would have to come with flashing signals to alert drivers.
“Asking pedestrians to cross five lanes of traffic is really dangerous and typically we’d need to think about that”, she said.
The casino is now constructing its own hotel, which is expected to draw even more traffic to the area. That, along with the potential for more development, makes safety a work in progress.
“We’re going to have more cars coming, so it is changing in nature. That’s really part of the puzzle for us”, Taylor said.
There will be a price tag that comes along with changes to make the area safer. The MDOT would typically share the costs with the other interested parties. In this case the casino, hotel and town.