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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Freeway deconstruction: now in progress

To anyone who doubts whether Portland will ever be rid of Interstate 295 through downtown and along our Back Cove waterfront: we've already started to dismantle freeway infrastructure from the 1950s. And so far, drivers have hardly noticed the difference.

In the 1950s, before Interstate 295 existed, the original Veterans Memorial Bridge was built with a freeway-like on- and off-ramps on either side of the Fore River to carry high-speed Route 1 traffic. Here's a road map of the area from 1957, when the Route 1 expressway was brand-new:

Here's a view of the grade-separated off-ramp on the South Portland approach that existed until early last year:

And here's what it looks like now. Fewer lanes, a cheap stop-sign controlled intersection, and a nice wide new path for bikes and pedestrians:

Has South Portland become choked with traffic since losing one of its oldest freeway spurs? No, it hasn't been.

The biggest impact to losing a freeway spur has been that thousands of residents of South Portland's neighborhoods now have safe and convenient access to the West End of Portland by foot or by bike.

And this is only the beginning.