The recently-completed Peninsula Transit Study found that Exit 6, the cloverleaf interchange at the junction of I-295 and Forest Avenue, was one of the single biggest impediments to pedestrian and bicycle travel in the city, and that it needed major changes.
This interchange occupies almost 14 acres of land that sits smack dab in between our city's major University campus, our city's most used park, a rapidly-developing neighborhood, and they city's primary supermarket. Instead of facilitating access between these major destinations, Exit 6 confounds access, forces people to get in their cars for short trips, and adds significantly to traffic congestion in the neighborhood and on the freeway. It's also extremely dangerous for driver, who are forced into hair-raising merges on the exit's short ramps.
A more pedestrian-friendly diamond interchange, on the other hand, would make driving safer, make it easier to walk between Bayside, Deering Oaks, and the USM campus, and free up fourteen acres of land for redevelopment and parkland.
This is what it could look like (roll your mouse over the image, or click it for an enlargement):
Radically improved mobility through the neighborhood, whether by foot or by vehicle; acres of new parkland; millions of square feet of new office or housing space; millions of dollars added to the city's annual property tax revenue. Selling the excess land for redevelopment would fund the entire project at no cost to taxpayers.
The idea is so fraught with common sense and possibility for improving our city that, naturally, the Maine Department of Transportation's pinhead bureaucrats up in Augusta are against it. Their proposed project would cost a million dollars and do practically nothing to resolve the intersection's numerous safety problems.
Dan Stewart, who is supposedly our advocate for pedestrian issues in Augusta (makes me shudder to think what someone in Augusta who's indifferent to pedestrians would do), had this to say in an e-mail:
" I would think that pedestrian advocates would not want to delay these planned improvements for the years that it would take to study, develop and fund a diamond interchange, if indeed a diamond interchange is determined to be the appropriate thing to do in the area. Initial analysis has shown significant issues to creating a diamond interchange including possible widening of both Forest Avenue and I 295."Translation from bureaucrat-speak: "we hate the idea of selling the land, we hate the Transit Study, and we'll drag our feet for years to spite your hateful city."
I'm especially fond of Dan's last sentence: MDOT's "analysis" says that in order to make the interchange smaller and more efficient, we'd need to widen it.
I can understand why they'd want to keep Exit 6 the way it is. It's loopy, just like them!