By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer
On a windy day in early March, walking to class at the FRC seems worse than the class itself. The cold wind hitting my face is so strong that my eyes are forced half-closed so they don’t dry. As I pass FAB Hall on Lincoln Street, I remember that the sidewalk ends here and doesn’t continue until I get to the FRC. I stop at the sharp corner, the ramp to the Public Safety building blocking my view of any potential oncoming cars making me uneasy. I decide there’s nothing else I can do. I look both ways and even though I don’t see any cars coming, a silver sedan swings around the corner out of nowhere and narrowly misses me as I dart across the street, honking at me as it drives by.
I’m not the only student who has had a near-accident at the corner of Quebec and Lincoln Streets. In fact, a student almost got hit on March 27. As the student was walking towards the Honors House side of Lincoln Street on their way to work, a car with a faculty decal came fast around the corner, drifting onto the sidewalk and forcing the student to step onto the grass to ensure the car wouldn’t get close enough to hit them.
“The corner is regularly a difficult place to walk, in that there is no real safe space to walk, and it is not uncommon for cars to come through without slowing down for potential pedestrians,” said the student in an online statement.
The worst time to brave this corner is in the winter, when the snowbanks stand at almost 10 feet tall. With the ramp of the Public Safety building and the snowbanks obstructing the view of the pedestrian as well as an oncoming vehicle, there’s no way to tell when a car is coming until it comes around the corner. Talking to friends, faculty, and classmates at UMF about this corner has brought up concerns of fear. Does the university know about the dangers of this corner? What can we do to avoid this potential tragedy?
UMF knows this corner is a danger to its students and they are currently going through the process to get a plan approved. The plan? To create a system to safely allow pedestrians to get around the corner and slow cars down to make them aware of oncoming pedestrians.
Jeff McKay, director of Facilities Management, has been working with the town of Farmington in hopes that they will approve a plan that would widen the sidewalks along Lincoln Street, and allow Farmington Public Works to make new sidewalks along the corner and Quebec Street. “There is no sidewalk on [the Public Safety building] side of the street on [the] corner,” said McKay, “so it would be nice to continue that up around by the volleyball court then down Perkins Street [across from the Mainely Outdoors building].”
Since the town of Farmington owns the streets that go through UMF, any work on those streets has to be approved by the town. This can slow down the work process and if the town doesn’t approve it, it could shut down the whole project. Even if the proposed added sidewalk doesn’t pass, McKay will be inserting more lighting in front of the Public Safety building, which isn’t the best solution, but it’s certainly not the worst.
Inserting a crosswalk between the end of the sidewalk on Lincoln Street and the beginning of the sidewalk in front of the FRC could be a good solution if this wasn’t an illegal place to put a crosswalk. According to the MaineDOT Guidelines On Crosswalks, in a 25 mph zone such as that on Quebec and Lincoln Streets, the crosswalk must be in view of the driver and the pedestrian from at least 200 ft. away. By that standard, a driver or pedestrian coming from Quebec Street would have to be able to see the crosswalk around the corner from the Mainely Outdoors building.
Sergeant Wayne Drake of Campus Police and I discussed his ideal resolution from outside the Public Safety building, the corner in question in out view. “The only way to fix this corner,” Drake said, “is to cut out the corner, bypass it.” Promised by the previous director of Facilities, according to Drake, was the installation of stairs on the bank right before the end of the sidewalk on Lincoln Street. These steps would lead to a path cutting through the field next to the volleyball court and ending in a crosswalk on Quebec Street. Drake says the town of Farmington would be most concerned legally about liability when looking at the stairs plan, but he doesn’t believe that will be much of a factor.