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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Next Neighborhood Byway: Fore River to Deering Center

PACTS, the regional transportation funding and planning agency, is set to approve a small batch of construction projects for the 2013 and 2014 construction seasons. There are some small changes being planned for Woodford's Corner that could widen sidewalks and make marginal improvements to the streets in that neighborhood, based on the Transforming Forest Avenue Study*, and some street reconstruction projects. There's also a proposal to extend the new Veterans Memorial Bridge path from its current southern terminus on South Portland's Main Street, in a bleak district of car repair shops, half a mile further to Broadway at Cash Corner, a bleak district of fast food joints.

But the most exciting project being proposed is one that would extend the city's first "Neighborhood Byway" from Deering Center and Woodford's Corner southward through Libbytown to the Thompson's Point transportation center and the planned sports arena/office complex, along existing low-traffic neighborhood streets (view a map here).

Most of the project's modest budget would go towards traffic calming, and particularly towards shrinking the size of jumbo intersections along the way to give bikes and pedestrians shorter, safer crossings of major roads like Brighton Avenue and Congress Street. The main idea is to make those big, busy streets feel less intimidating, and reduce their impact as barriers that prevent neighborhood residents from walking and biking to the bus & train station on Thompson Point, or to errands in Woodford's Corner.

For instance, where Sewall Street currently meets Congress near the Portland Transportation Center, the crosswalk is currently 70 feet long (longer that the crossings of the much busier Washington Avenue on Munjoy Hill). The Byway plan would move the curbs to create shorter crossings and improve the streetscape with new landscaping:

Moving north towards Woodfords Corner, the crossing of Brighton Avenue would also be improved for bikes and pedestrians with new crosswalks with median refuge islands, which will also help slow down traffic along this length of Brighton:

And finally, where the new Byway meets Woodford Street, there are plans for additional refuge island crosswalks plus — between the two islands — a short center-turn lane for bikes to negotiate the jog from Beacon Street to the contra-flow bike lane on Nevins (which, in turn, connects to the existing Neighborhood Byway to Deering Center to the west, and to the Ocean Avenue bike lane to the east):

Additionally, the entire route would get new wayfinding signage, similar to the signs that went up in Deering early this spring. If all goes well, this might go under construction late next summer, or in 2014.

* As several have suggested, Transforming Bits of Forest Avenue But Not the Parts With Four Lanes of Traffic and not the Drive-Thrus Either and Actually Not Transforming Most of It, Really But Can We Have Our Massive Consulting Fee 'K Thanks Bye might have been a better name.

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