Proposed Sidewalks - Portion of Sidewalk Grant Application

This information is from the Town's Quality Community Programs Application to Maine Department of Transportation.

Positive Impacts of Sidewalks on Community: 


Improved and newly constructed sidewalks would create a walk-able village area providing many positive impacts to the Town of Bowdoinham.  Sidewalks offer physical and visual definition to the layout of the town center, as well as serve to slow traffic, allow people to walk safely, provide an economic stimulus and foster a sense of community.


Sidewalks would serve to connect the village area and allow people to walk safely between key community destinations.  For instance, children would be able to safely walk from the Bowdoinham Community School to the Bowdoinham Public Library, the Country Store, and the Mailly Waterfront Park. The Library is housed in the John C. Coombs Municipal Building built in 1911 as the town’s first high school. This building also houses the town’s municipal offices. Adjacent to the Coombs Municipal Building is the Town Hall, built in 1823 as the Union Church, and now serves as the town’s meeting hall for municipal events such as town meetings and elections. This old Town Hall is home to important community events such as the Annual Library Plant Sale (35 years running!), the annual Community School rummage sale, monthly Contra Dances, and the annual Bowdoinham Artisans Guild show and sale.  Sidewalks would allow residents to walk safely to these events, which would eliminate the vehicular congestion caused by people driving to the events and overflow parking along Main Street. 


Currently because of the lack of sidewalks, residents that do walk must walk along the side of the street close to traffic.  New sidewalks will remove pedestrians from the roadways and act as a traffic calming tool for vehicular traffic.  Providing a safe place for pedestrians to walk would encourage residents to walk between community destinations.  In addition to residents walking to community destinations, providing an increased level of safety would allow residents to walk or run for their personal health benefits.


When the Village center is pedestrian oriented, it becomes the healthy heart of a town, economically and socially.  A walk-able village acts as a magnet drawing people into the village, increasing local business, and supporting the local economy.  A walk-able village allows residents and visitors to travel around our town’s center and discover local businesses, recreational possibilities, and one another.  Impromptu meetings between neighbors and friends are important to build a sense of community and encourage community development.  A walk-able village not only offers a quality of life and social connectedness, but it also preserves our town’s character and history.


One should not overlook the historical importance of sidewalks in Bowdoinham. In the 1800’s to the early 1900’s, wooden sidewalks were abundant in Bowdoinham’s downtown area. (See attached photos). Wooden sidewalks were located along the same streets that the town is seeking funding for:  Ridge Road, Center Street, and Main Street. Sidewalks contributed to Bowdoinham’s vibrant mercantile businesses. In 1902, much of the businesses located along lower Main Street were destroyed by the “Big Fire” including the wooden sidewalks leaving mainly the residential town that remains today.


In 1962, Bowdoinham celebrated its 200th Birthday by establishing the Bowdoinham Water District bringing a steady supply of drinking water to the village residents.  In 2012 Bowdoinham will be celebrating its 250th Birthday. Bringing sidewalks back to Bowdoinham’s village would be a timely and appropriate way to commemorate such as significant event!


Value of these Sidewalks:


These roads are our first priority because of both safety and usage.


  • Ridge Road – This portion of the Ridge Road connects the Bowdoinham Community School to the River Road where both the Country Store and Town Landing Restaurant are located.  The River Road also serves as a connection to Main Street and the Mailly Waterfront Park.  Constructing a sidewalk on this narrow section of the Ridge Road will separate pedestrian traffic from vehicular traffic, which will allow students to safely walk from the school to the River Road, especially where vehicular traffic is turning onto the Ridge Road from the River Road.  Additionally, providing a sidewalk on both the Ridge Road and River Road would allow two crosswalks to be created with signage so that pedestrians may safely navigate this intersection.
  • River Road (Rt. 24) – A sidewalk on this portion of the River Road would connect several destinations for pedestrians including the Country Store, Town Landing Restaurant, Main Street and the marina located on the other side of the Cathance River Bridge.  A sidewalk in this area would make walking in this heavily used area safer by separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic, as well as by calming (slowing) traffic through this section of the village where the speed limit is 25 mph. Additionally, the intersection of the Ridge Road and the River Road is a blind intersection in the direction out of the village area.  Providing a sidewalk on both of the River Road would allow three crosswalks to be created with signage so that pedestrians may safely navigate the Ridge Road/River Road intersection as well as the Main Street/River Road intersection. 

We are not proposing a sidewalk on the portion of the River Road from Main Street to Mailly Waterfront Park, because of the sharp corner, which contains two intersecting roads (Back Hill Street & Spring Street), located on this section.  Instead, it would be safer if pedestrians walked through Mailly Waterfront Park and the lower extension of Main Street. 


  • Center StreetCenter Street connects Main Street to Cemetery Road to the Post Road and the Fire Station, where many community functions and suppers are held.  This narrow road is a popular through road for vehicular traffic, but is hazardous for pedestrians due to blind areas.  Constructing a sidewalk on this road will separate pedestrian traffic from vehicular traffic and calm vehicular traffic, which will allow pedestrians to safely walk this popular road, as it connects the Fire Station, Cemetery Road (which an Elementary School is located on), and Main Street; especially for children commuting from school to the library.  Providing a sidewalk on Center Street will allow a crosswalk to be created from Center Street to the other side of Main Street so that pedestrians can safely cross Main Street.
  • School Street – The sidewalk will connect Main Street to the Town Hall and John C. Coombs Municipal Building, which contains both the Town Office and Public Library.  The sidewalk would be located along School Street until is reaches the Town Hall, then it would travel along the side of the Town Hall and wrap around the rear of the Town Hall to the Coombs Municipal Building.  The sidewalk has to wrap around the Town Hall because it is located too close to the road.  If the sidewalk was to be put in front of the Town Hall, then School Street would need to be made a one-way street.  The Town Hall and the Coombs Municipal Building are both heavily used buildings that create a significant amount of vehicular traffic; as the Town Hall is used for community events and rented for large gatherings and the Coombs Municipal Building is used for the Town Office, Public Library and meeting rooms.  Currently, the pedestrian traffic to these buildings is low, because of safety; the road is narrow and there is a little knoll in the road that creates poor visibility.  Constructing a sidewalk to these buildings would allow people to walk to these highly used buildings safely.   
  • Main Street (From Mailly Waterfront Park to the River Road) – A sidewalk on this portion of Main Street would connect Mailly Waterfront Park to the River Road, which would serve to connect Cathance Landing (business complex) and both the marina and the public landing & docks to the Town Landing Restaurant and the Country Store located on the River Road.  Currently, this 37-foot travel way is used for vehicle movement and parking, leaving pedestrians to navigate around parked vehicles while avoiding moving vehicles.  Providing a sidewalk and parallel parking on this section of Main Street would define the travel way, guide vehicular traffic, and provide a defined space for pedestrians to walk safely.
  • Main Street (From River Road to School Street) – Currently, this portion of Main Street has a 2-foot wide sidewalk with a shoulder of varying width.  Because the sidewalk is so narrow most pedestrians walk within the shoulder area, which is also where vehicles parallel park, even though there are no defined parallel parking areas.  Providing a sidewalk and a few parallel parking on this section of Main Street would provide a place for people to park safely, so that traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, does not have to maneuver around the parked vehicles.  Unfortunately the sidewalk cannot just be widened, because the stormwater catch basins are located at the edge of the existing sidewalk.  Therefore, to widen the sidewalk the roadway’s drainage has to be reconstructed.  A wider sidewalk would allow people to walk on the sidewalk instead of the shoulder and would make the roadway safer for pedestrians to travel through the historic village center where several businesses are located, as well as the Coombs Municipal Building located on School Street.  Widening the sidewalk and narrowing the shoulder will also help to slow vehicular traffic on Main Street.

Sidewalks bring New Opportunities: 


A walk-able village would provide local businesses with an increased consumer base from foot traffic.   Bowdoinham is fortunate to have a village area that has been the center of its economic activity.  Businesses in the village area include a credit union, two insurance agencies, two churches, a country store/grocery store, restaurant, flower and gift shop, regional arts center and gallery, real estate agency, counseling office, and dog training center. In addition to these retail and service outlets, the downtown is home to many of the 150 small businesses in Bowdoinham including four high-end cabinet makers, a wholesale wine distributor, and a software designer.  In addition, this increase in accessibility and consumers would help attract new businesses to the local economy.


Another economic opportunity lies within Mailly Waterfront Park and the public boat landing and docks, which are jointly operated by the Maine State Department of Conservation and the Town of Bowdoinham.  Mailly Waterfront Park is located at the end of Main Street and provides boating access to the Cathance River and then Merrymeeting Bay, the Kennebec River, the Androscoggin River and the Atlantic Ocean.   Merrymeeting Bay is a 20,000 acre tidal estuary, a world renowned recreational area with significant natural habitat.  Merrymeeting Bay is located at the confluence of the Kennebec River and the Androscoggin River, is a short boat ride from Popham Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  These waterways serve as a gateway for many boaters to access Bowdoinham.  This significant transportation access point is currently cut off to walking traffic due to the lack of sidewalks. By bringing sidewalks to the waterfront, boaters would have the opportunity to depart from their boats and safely walk to local businesses such as the Country Store and the Town Landing Restaurant.


A walk-able village would give residents the ability to leave their vehicles at home and walk safely through the village.  The ability to commute without the use of one’s vehicle will allow our residents to live a healthier life style and maintain a healthy community.  The ability to walk safely through the village would build a sense of community and encourage community development. 


Proposed Sidewalks meet State Planning Goals/Economic/Tourism Benefits:


The mission of the Maine State Planning is to help build a sustainable future for Maine communities, businesses, and residents. Bowdoinham has the opportunity to create a sustainable economic future and sidewalks are an integral part of this goal.


The addition of sidewalks will have an immediate economic benefit to the town. During the summer months our free Sunday Concert Series draws visitors from the surrounding communities to the Mailly Waterfront Park, the town park located adjacent to the public boat landing. Sidewalks will allow visitors to these well attended events to patronize the area businesses and stroll along the historic Main Street homes. Residents from the Greenleaf Apartments and Bowdoinham Estates will be able to walk to the concerts.


The Merrymeeting Arts Center, a regional arts center, gallery and museum opened its doors in September 2007. It is located next to Mailly Waterfront Park, but with the lack of good sidewalks, it is cut off from the rest of the local businesses. With walking enhancements the Arts Center will see an increase in business and help to make Bowdoinham a destination for the arts. The Town is working with regional economic developers as part of the Midcoast Council for Business Development and Planning Alliance to help promote cultural tourism in the region. Bowdoinham is home to many well known artists and craftspeople and it is these types of sustainable economic development that will help Bowdoinham thrive in the future.


The Bowdoinham Farmers Market will open its doors on June 20th in the Merrymeeting Grange which is located on Main Street across from the Downeast Federal Credit Union. The grange, built in 1883, is located in the historic center of the town on Main Street. The Farmer’s Market will be opened every Friday evening and Saturday morning providing locally grown produce from area farmers. It is the town’s hope that many of the village residents will walk to the market each week to purchase their weekly produce and continue down Main Street to the local country store to complete their shopping experience. Sidewalks will make this possible.


With the recent discussion of the extension of Amtrak passenger rail to Brunswick, Bowdoinham’s railway could see an increase in freight traffic and possibly have passenger service again for the first time since 1961. The historic location of the station and the ideal location for a new station would be in the center of town and would be yet another missing piece to making Bowdoinham the bustling community it once was. Safe sidewalks would link the future station to the communities businesses and residents.


The Cathance River Trail, is a 3/4 mile trail that originates near Mailly waterfront park and goes south alongside the Cathance River to a point looking back towards Bowdoinham’s Harbor. This scenic trail is just another example of Bowdoinham’s unconnected assets. With new and improved sidewalks all of our assets including our tidal access, our arts and crafts amenities, beautiful waterfront park, unique businesses and historic homes will surely become a tourist destination drawing visitors from away.


Demonstrated Need for Sidewalks:


As described, the primary purposes for sidewalks in Bowdoinham are:


  1. To connect Bowdoinham’s community origins and destinations (library, school, town office, town hall, businesses, parks, etc.)
  2. Improve the safety of pedestrians who currently walk to these destinations.
  3. Provide safe routes for children to walk to and from school.
  4. Provide opportunities for pedestrians to walk to local business and community events.
  5. Decrease the use of motor vehicle traffic.


Clearly, the need for sidewalks in the village area has been expressed for many years. In 1992, a survey was personally delivered to every household in preparing the Comprehensive Plan. 45% (365) of the surveys were returned, an exceptionally high return rate. In answer to the question, “What would you like to see or not see in the Village in 2001”, 81% of the responders wanted to see sidewalks - the highest favorable rating received.


Protect the traditional village, the heart of the community, while enhancing and encouraging its vitality” was a goal established in the Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2000. While sidewalks were not specifically mentioned, the plan identifies the Village as a major Asset or Opportunity to the future of Bowdoinham, “While on a faint echo of the commerce in the 19th Century, the Village is still an identifiable focal point for economic and social activity. It is a crossroads for local traffic, making it particularly apt for serving local commercial retail and service needs. …Many of these establishments meet the needs of residents as well as tourist s using the waterfront, airport, and recreation areas.” The following is included in the Plan’s Analysis of the Local Economy, “Economic development also affects “quality of life” objectives. A motivation expressed by some people in Bowdoinham is to enhance the sense of community. This can be achieved by revitalizing what is already in Town and making existing businesses more viable. …Consumer convenience is enhanced when retail and services are provided locally. Retail stores in Bowdoinham reduce the need to drive to more distant locations, which saves time and energy and helps to keep money in town.”


On April 29, 2008 the Bowdoinham Select Board adopted the Transportation Vision Statement prepared by members of the Biking, Walking, Paddling Group with the assistance of Rich Rothe, Planner. The Vision Statement recognizes the importance of a “Walkable Village”. The Vision states, “The Town will seek to protect and enhance its classic, small-town New England village center and its rural surroundings, commercial areas and the waterfront, while at the same time manage development t preserve the rural character of the community.” The Plan calls for “Plan for adequate, safe places for people to walk using sidewalks, trails, paved shoulders or a combination of all three as appropriate. Establish places for people to walk between major community destinations such as the school, recreational fields, library, Town Office, Mailly Waterfront Park, and stores.”


Vehicles speeding above the designated speed limit have been a chronic problem for both Main Street (Route 125) and River Road. The Town has addressed this problem with greater enforcement from the Sagadahoc County Sheriff Department as well as utilizing the Department’s speed enforcement trailer. (See attached Data sheets showing traffic counts and speeds on Main Street and River Road.) Also, according to MDOT traffic count data, in 2007 the traffic count on Route 125 was 2,150 and on Route 24 it was 2,740. The proposed sidewalks will bring pedestrians down Main Street to the intersection of Route 24 where pedestrians will have the option of crossing over Route 24 to the Waterfront Park or continue north on Route 24 to Ridge Road. Crossing Route 24 either at the intersection of Main Street or at the intersection of Ridge Road is currently dangerous. Sidewalks, crosswalks and added signage will help reduce traffic speed and allow pedestrians to safely cross.


With the increasing cost of gasoline and diesel, safe walking routes to local businesses and destinations will become an even greater necessity.