A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

20 Minutes by Bike from the Maine Mall to Downtown Portland

Discussions are officially underway about replacing Veteran's Bridge, the shortest path between Portland's waterfront and the Maine Mall area. Tonight is the first public meeting to discuss what kind of replacement gets built. Here's a message from Erik Osborne, Chair of Portland's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee:
On Monday night (6 PM, Portland City Hall, State of Maine Room) DOT will be soliciting public feedback on the proposed replacement of Veteran's Bridge, which connects Rt.1 from SoPo to the Peninsula. DOT needs to hear from you that the new bridge design should focus on alternative tranporation modes: cycling, transit, and walking. DOT has recieved federal funding to fast-track replacement of this bridge. Construction will start next year. They say that new bridge may last 50 to 100 years, so it is critical that it be designed for the transporation future we want to see.

Alternative transportation advocates (that would be you all) have long identified this bridge as an important missing link in our bike/ped infrastructure for two big reasons:

1) There are plans for major bike/ped facilities on either side of the bridge: Commercial St., Fore R, and Thomson's Pt. trails in Portland, and in SoPo the West End Trails project has big plans for a network of trails connecting brick hill, the jetport area, the mall, Long Creek, etc. Vets' bridge would be a direct connection between these networks, which would be huge!

2) Vets' bridge could be a great and much needed alternate route to Congress St. for getting between the Peninsula & the jetport/mall area.

Here's another really important point: this project is to replace the bridge only. Perhaps more critical for bike/ped are the connections on either end, which are really a mess right now. In order for DOT to be convinced that they need to build *any* bike/ped facilities on the bridge at all, they need to know that the Cities on either end are committed to making these connections. We need to make sure DOT knows they won't be building a "bikepath to nowhere". I think that the reasons mentioned above make a strong case that this isn't true. Portland's recent Active Transportation Project application is another solid example of local commitment. Also, remember that PACTS priority request for money to replace the bridge? Well, now that bridge replacement is being funded by another mechanism, it was suggested the PACTS request could be divereted to making the needed bike/ped connections on either end.

Still, it would be very helpful Council members from both towns present to speak up for local commitment.

Dan Stewart, DOT's bike/ped coordinator, is on our side on this one, but the rest of DOT's project team may need some convincing. So please show up and speak up - 6 PM, upstairs at City Hall.

Please forward this to your friends and associates.

- Erik
I'll see you there!

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