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

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Maine State Pier: Onramp to the New Franklin Superhighway

The Peninsula Traffic Plan of 2005 recycled the 1960s-era concept of turning Franklin Arterial into a six-lane trench of freeway traffic. Unsurprisingly, the Plan failed to garner any popular support, and it remains in limbo.
The Peninsula Traffic Plan of 2005 was universally panned and consigned to the dusty files of City Hall's netherworld for its complete lack of consideration for anyone who might want to navigate downtown Portland without an automobile.

Written by suburban traffic engineers Gorrill-Palmer1, the Peninsula Traffic Plan envisions a few nightmare scenarios for downtown Portland: eight lanes of speeding traffic at the edge of Deering Oaks Park, a six-lane Franklin Arterial that runs through a trench through downtown, streets so dangerous that pedestrians need bridges in order to cross them, and numerous other wet dreams for anyone who yearns for the halcyon days when we wantonly bulldozed our cities to make way for more cars.

At the intersection of Marginal Way and Franklin, GP proposed nine lanes of traffic. The proposal would be so dangerous to pedestrians that a separated bridge (yellow dotted line) would be necessary in order to cross.
In spite of its shortcomings, certain foul elements of the Peninsula Traffic Plan refuse to die. Most recently, the idea of widening Franklin Arterial at Marginal Way has been revived, and traffic engineers are trying to link the idea to the mess on the Maine State Pier. A May 21 memo (see page 9) from MDOT engineer Stephen Landry to developer Ocean Properties states that
"...some off-site mitigation is expected to be required, including additional turn lanes or traffic signals and possibly some ramp widening at Franklin Street I-295 interchange...

It matters little that this memo was written for Ocean Properties; the other development team (Olympia) is also planning on building more off-site parking, which will still clog area roadways and justify widening projects in MDOT's worldview. Plus, Olympia's traffic engineers aren't exactly progressive urbanists: they happen to be the same Gorrill-Palmer firm that wrote the bankrupt Peninsula Traffic Plan of 2005.

So how can Portland citizens keep the development on the Maine State Pier from becoming an on-ramp to the dreaded Franklin Superhighway to Hell? Simple: write to your City Council (you can find the e-mail addresses above in the next post - avoid the "black hole" on the City's web page) and demand that a project of this size should be postponed until Portland completes its upcoming study of pedestrian, bicycle, and transit traffic downtown.

Unless that happens, we can count on more cars, more air pollution, more pavement, and more misery in general from these developers.

1Perhaps not coincidentally, Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers, Inc. operates in the village of Gray, Maine, a locale for which years of intense traffic from the nearby Maine Turnpike has driven the town to designate "blighted" status. In other words, years of traffic engineering prescriptions of the sort contained in the Peninsula Traffic Plan have made a literal slum of Gorrill-Palmer's own hometown.

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