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'Vision Zero' aims to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries in Maine

There will be an in-person workshop Wednesday at South Portland City Hall for residents in Greater Portland to weigh in.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The Greater Portland Council of Governments is working on a new project that aims to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries by making roadways safer.

Last year in Maine, 150 people died and 678 others were seriously injured because of traffic-related crashes.

The new strategy is called Vision Zero. Multiple other states and countries have found success with Vision Zero, after implementing new traffic measures in certain areas where crashes tend to happen more often.

To do that, some of the measures that could be taken include decreasing speeds at some roads where crashes tend to happen; modify the layout of a road, crosswalk, or intersection; or fix any other potential road-system infrastructure. Those measures could make it safer for the driver, pedestrian, motorist, or biker.

Chris Chop, transportation director for the GPCOG, said the first step is for people to help identify roads, intersections, and crosswalks they feel are unsafe through a survey to later tackle the issue with some federal funds.

The overarching goal is to help Maine cities and towns have zero deaths and zero serious injuries from any type of crash. 

"I think one of the significant measures that a region like ours can undertake is just changes to roadway design," Chop said. "A lot of the roads in our region are primarily designed for automobile traffic, and in order to create a safer environment for all users of the transportation system, we do have to make some difficult choices and maybe change our roadway design in certain areas to calm our traffic to slow vehicular speeds a little bit."

"What we really want from the public is to better understand other areas that make them nervous on the roadways," Chop said.

A total of 18 Maine towns and cities will take part in the new initiative.

A workshop will be held at South Portland City Hall on Wednesday for its community members to give input, along with Cape Elizabeth, Portland, and Scarborough residents. Officials will then create a plan to then adopt some measures that could help make a difference.

"We want to hear from community members on intersections, segments of roadway around the region that are safety concerns for them, maybe they've been in a near crash that's never been reported in data, and we want to understand that so that we can come up with a good plan, strategic plan, for addressing those safety concerns and perhaps recommending improvements," Chop said. "Transportation improvements, changes to the roadway design, and to make it safer for all users of the transportation system."

Click here to learn more about the in-person workshop happening this Wednesday at the South Portland City Hall.

If you would like to fill out the survey, click here.

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