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

Monday, July 13, 2009

TONIGHT: Come to South Portland to support a bike/ped connection across Long Creek

As regular readers should be aware, next year's reconstruction of Veterans' Memorial Bridge between the West End of Portland and the Ligonia neighborhood of South Portland will include a 12' wide shared sidewalk, plus a 6' wide shoulder for bicycles.

It's going to be a valuable new connection, but in terms of linking the huge employment areas of western South Portland to the Portland peninsula, there's still a missing link: there's still no safe way for bikes and pedestrians to cross Interstate 295 in South Portland (the Maine DOT's botched reconstruction of Exit 3 in South Portland two summers ago destroyed the only safe crossing point of I-295 for bikes and pedestrians: now, Redbank schoolchildren have to cross 12 high-speed freeway ramps and go under three dark underpasses on their way to elementary school. Thanks, Augusta).

Anyhow, South Portland activists have been working hard to create a new, safer connection across I-295 and Long Creek. The proposed Long Creek bike/ped bridge (mapped above) would connect the Redbank and Brickhill neighborhoods of South Portland directly to the new Veterans Bridge bicycle and pedestrian paths. By this routing, the bike trip between the Old Port and the Maine Mall would be transformed from a 6-mile trip along stressful streets like Outer Congress or Broadway, to a 5-mile trip along low-traffic neighborhood streets and dedicated bike paths.

It would also open up new access to employment and housing for car-free or one-car households on both sides of the harbor: National Semiconductor would become an hour's walk (about 3 miles) from the West End's affordable housing complexes, for instance. The new Mercy Hospital campus on the Fore River would become an easy, 2 mile bike ride from Brickhill and Redbank (which would be about a 20 minute ride at an easy, no-sweat pace).

The only obstacle to this happening is the publicly-owned Portland "International" Jetport, which is objecting to the new bike/ped connection due to its long-range plans to extend a runway nearby. However, it's not clear why a bike path along Long Creek couldn't coexist with a longer runway, especially since numerous other cities have roads or trails around their airports.

The South Portland City Council is holding an important meeting this evening to determine whether or not the Jetport should be allowed to expand without also providing this important bike/ped connection. Here's the announcement from Shay Bellas of the South Portland Land Trust:

The South Portland Land Trust is making our vision for bike/ped bridge over Long Creek a reality. But we can't achieve the dream without you. As you know, the proposed span has tremendous implications for improving our quality of life and commuting options.

Can it be done? — YES
Will it be done? — Perhaps
We NEED your support this Monday night, July 13
from 6:30 - 8:00 pm.

All the stakeholders involved are poised to embrace the vision.

The next step is up to you.

We need you to help us show the South Portland City Council how the bridge is, in the words of one urban planner, "a game changer" for the greater South Portland area. The best way to do that is for you, your colleagues, friends and neighbors to attend:

The South Portland City Council workshop
This Monday, July 13 from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
South Portland Community Center
21 Nelson Rd

Here's a map to the meeting. If you plan to bike there, take the Highland Avenue bike route: from Portland, cross the Casco Bay Bridge, take a right at the end, then take the first left onto Anthoine St. next to the Public Safety building. At the end of Anthoine, turn right on Highland. The community center is behind the high school, just past the oil tanks.

1 comment:

Turboglacier said...

Wow-- that is way cool. Almost cooler than scooter parking, even.

I can't make the meeting tonight but I'm sending vibes of support. Eff the runway! I'm happy with the current level of aviation noise in the west end-- don't really need more.