State backs roundabout safety fixes in Gorham

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Gorham officials met with the state’s top transportation leader Monday to discuss safety concerns at the South Street roundabout, the site of four big-truck rollovers, with the most recent incident last month.

Gorham Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre called for this week’s talk at Gorham Public Safety Department after a fuel tanker with thousands of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel flipped Sept. 22 at the roundabout that links South Street (Route 114) and the Bernard P. Rines Bypass (Route 112). The incident and environmental cleanup of 1,000 gallons of mixed fuel detoured traffic for days.

“We met with the fire chief and town officials to see what can be done to mitigate the rollovers at the Gorham bypass,” Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt said Tuesday in a statement to the American Journal.  “We are committed to finding both short- and long-term solutions.”

Following the meeting, Lefebvre said the state is looking at implementing some immediate safety measures at the heavily traveled roundabout and some longer-range improvement in the spring.

Lefebvre said short-term safety solutions could include speed limit changes, more signage, roadway striping and flashing lights. Bernhardt and several of his top-level staff members attended the Gorham meeting that Lefebvre described as positive.

“I was very impressed and pleased they were very receptive to our input,” Lefebvre said.

The bypass, handling thousands of commuters and big rigs daily, opened in 2008. It has three of Gorham’s five roundabouts. Four trucks have rolled over at the South Street roundabout, including a modular home, a trailer loaded with hay and a fuel tanker in 2014. No injuries have been reported in the Gorham  rollovers so far.

“We have had a number of large vehicles rollover at that roundabout,” Gorham Town Manager David Cole said recently. “We have not experienced those problems at other roundabouts. So seems reasonable to have a discussion about what may be causing this issue and whether there are reasonable steps that could be taken to mitigate any problems.”

State and town officials will meet again to discuss a long-term remedy after the coming winter, Lefebvre said.