GOULDSBORO — Worried about bicyclist and pedestrian safety, selectmen are asking the state to widen a stretch of road between the villages of Birch Harbor and Prospect Harbor.
The request comes as bicycle traffic on the scenic loop road surrounding Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula increased from 2014 to 2015.
From July 1 to October 2014, the National Park Service had a count of 2,948 bicyclists using the Schoodic loop Road.
From April 13 to Oct. 31 of this year, 4,246 bicyclists used the popular route.
“This is a matter of public safety that will only become an increasing concern as we grapple with increased tourist traffic, including pedestrians, cyclists and hikers using this road,” Town Manager Bryan Kaenrath said in a letter Nov. 23 to Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt.
Of particular concern, he said, is a section of Route 186 that moves down a steep hill and an “S”-shaped curve leading to and extending beyond the Maine Fair Trade Lobster plant in Prospect Harbor.
Kaenrath said there have been several “near serious accidents” along that stretch of the road as bicyclists ride around the loop road and then exit onto East Schoodic Drive and visit its picturesque fishing villages.
“With the road lacking any shoulders and several dangerous curves, motorists are often unable to see cyclists and pedestrians on the side of the road or unable to allow the mandated 3 feet of clearance,” Kaenrath said.
Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula drew 166,000 visitors in 2013; 174,000 in 2014, and, as of now, 159,000 visitors in 2015.
John Kelly, management assistant for Acadia National Park, said the park does not predict how many visitors will come in future periods, but he expects an unspecified increase with the new campground.
Kaenrath said ideally the roughly five-mile section of road between the park exit along East Schoodic Drive beginning in Wonsqueak Harbor, following Route 186 and then heading into Corea village would be widened.
The inquiry was initiated by Selectman Roger Bowen, who would like to see a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lane from the park exit to Corea village.
Based on a cost of $150 per foot, that project would cost about $3 million, according to the Department of Transportation, allowing for handicapped-accessible pathways and drainage issues.
But Kaenrath said the immediate concern is the curve near the lobster processing plant.
“That’s the real goal here, to do something about that corner,” he said. “We do hear a lot of complaints about that.”
Patrick Adams, director of the Bicycles and Pedestrians Program for the Department of Transportation, recently visited the area to see firsthand what the selectmen are talking about.
“That sharp corner where Stinson Seafood used to be is the most dangerous area in town and it’s also the one with the least number of alternatives without major road construction,” Adams said.
Adams said the state has two programs that might apply in this instance.
The Municipal Partner Initiative allows municipalities once a year to submit proposed projects for accelerated development, but the program requires towns and cities to pick up at least half the cost, he said.
If the smaller project is submitted and accepted under the Transportation Alternative program, the cost to the town would be 20 percent, he said.
Adams said the department does not have enough money to pay for the larger project under its Transportation Alternative option.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported park visitor and bicyclist statistics.