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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Franklin Street - Moving Forward

Above: The "urban boulevard" concept from the first Franklin Street study.

There's a public hearing tonight at the East End School to discuss the next step for the Franklin Street plan. You'll recall that "Phase 1" drew up three general concepts; this phase will narrow it down to a preferred, specific design for the new street, plus plans for new intersections for reconnected cross-streets, areas that will be made available for redevelopment, and pedestrian crossings and cross-town bike routes, among other things. The goal is to have a solid set of plans and cost estimates to prepare the new street for actual reconstruction.

The process has some good elements - there's an emphasis on a design that will encourage neighborhood vitality, economic development, and reducing dependency on oil. There's a good deal of concern, though, since Maine Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) engineers in Augusta are officially in charge, and they've inserted their own emphasis on moving more cars so they can collect more gas taxes.

Still, if they mess this up - what should be a high-visibility economic development and neighborhood revitalization effort - then Portland will be unlikely to put up any local money to make the project a reality, and MDOT will have an expensive, politically poisonous failure on their hands.

So this will be a high-profile case study for state leaders to decide whether or not Maine DOT is worth the money, or if, as many suspect, more local control over these project might be a better option. The whole Exit 7 fiasco, and Augusta's failure to plan for pedestrians in the first place, has already put their agency on the state's money-wasting shit list - so if they're smart, they'll try to redeem themselves.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
5:30 PM – 6:45 PM Franklin Street Feasibility Study Discussion
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM I-295 Exit 7 Discussion

Where: East End School Community Center
195 North Street, Portland

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