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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The City of Portland might spend $10,000 to tear out this crosswalk.

Grumpy motorists are lobbying the City of Portland to spend $10,000 to tear out this crosswalk on Woodford Street. Apparently, they are upset that the traffic island, functioning exactly as it's intended to, is impeding their ability to drive 50 miles per hour through the residential neighborhood between Rosemont Corner and Stevens Avenue.

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The people I know who actually live and walk through this neighborhood aren't pleased with this idea. Woodford is a busy street, and this crossing is well-used by kids walking to Longfellow Elementary and Deering High School. There's a rumor that the anti-crosswalk people are worried about drunk drivers hitting the island and flipping over onto someone's front lawn. But without this island, that same drunk driver would be allowed to accellerate unimpeded until s/he hits something - or someone - else at a much more dangerous speed.

In an era of deep budget cuts, it's hard to believe that the City is taking these complaints seriously - but they are. So if you object to your tax dollars being used to make the City's streets even less safe, get in touch with your City Councilors and also call (874-8493) or write the Department of Public Services.


Joel Guarna said...

Here are the email addresses for Portland City Council members:

kjdonoghue@portlandmaine.gov, nmm@portlandmaine.gov, edsuslovic@portlandmaine.gov, cl@portlandmaine.gov, jcoyne@portlandmaine.gov, janton@portlandmaine.gov, dwaxman@portlandmaine.gov, jduson@portlandmaine.gov, damarshall@portlandmaine.gov

Joel Guarna said...

Sample for those who are not feeling creative in drafting an email (will be more effective, I think, if folks individualize response, though):

"I am writing to voice my opposition to the proposed plan to remove the crosswalk/island on Woodsfords Street between Brighton Avenue and Stevens (in the Rosemont area). My family and my neighbors pass through this crosswalk many times per week. Our kids use this route to get to the Deering schools. We use this walk to get to and from the athletic fields, tennis courts, businesses on Stevens, and to each other's homes. There is no good alternative. The busy intersections on Brighton and Stevens are unsafe for children even with the crosswalks that exist there. Realistically, removing this crosswalk will simply mean that the residents of this area will jaywalk or cross without the signs and protection currently afforded by the signs and island that exist. This is a terrible use of taxpayer money and an unreasonable risk to us and our children. Please oppose this plan and know that all the residents of this area will be following developments closely.

Thank you.

Name, resident
phone #"

Joel Guarna said...

Michael Bobinsky, Director of Public Services for the City of Portland, sent me an email that included this summary (please excuse the long post, but it seems important to be well-informed to make a good decision on this):

The Department installed the traffic island around 2006 in conjunction with the Woodfords Street sewer separation project. Funding methods used at the time, allowed the Department to expand a typical sewer separation project into more of a "complete streets" project, enabling us to reconstruct the street itself, installing new sidewalks,lane markings and based on neighborhood input, installed a traffic island on the upper end of Woodfords St in response to request to improve on traffic calming on this neighborhood street. Although the Department had not followed the official traffic calming ordinance procedures with respect to the signed petition process for approval of calming plans, neighborhood meetings that my staff and I held at the time with then District 3 City Councilor Donna Carr,resulted in receiving consensus from the abutters to proceed with the installation of the island as solution to slow the traffic. Resident concerns involved speeding traffic, motorist using this portion of Woodfords St to cut through to Forest Avenue, and pedestrian safety concerns. The traffic island was also designed to accommodate a pedestrian refuge in the middle.

Shortly after installation, the Department received reports from the Police Department that a few key accidents occurred by unsuspecting motorist who were either traveling at high rates of speed or in one case was an OUI situation; we were asked to either improve signage/markings or consider redesigning or even removing the island. We opted to add signage and painted markings near the islands, which improved the safety of the island for motorist; however abutter complaints started to emerge. Shortly after these marking improvements were made immediate abutters on either side of the street complained about the loss of on street parking that the island caused at that specific location (lane is narrowed up to accommodate the island and 1-2 parking spaces were removed on both sides of the street where the island exists),impacts to resident driveways and snow plowing concerns. A followup neighborhood meeting occurred some months after installation and abutters that attended appeared resolved to have the island removed. After internal review and consideration, staff later developed a survey in 2009 asking residents along upper Woodfords St their preference to keep or remove the island. Councilor Dan Skolnik was the District 3 Councilor at this time and was made aware of the survey and the background as well. A majority of the residents that responded indicated a preference to have the island removed and staff began plans to have the island removed following the lifting of the 5 year street paving moratorium which will occur this summer.

Very recently staff and the City Council began to receive citizen complaints by residents who share a different view and/ or reside on adjacent streets; asking that the Department not remove the island. I notified Councilor Suslovic of these concerns and following initial discussion we had, we agreed to hold up on our plans to remove the island pending an opportunity for Councilor Suslovic to revisit the issues and concerns with the neighborhood. Councilor Suslovic wants to also meet with the immediate abutters to gain a better understanding of their concerns and confirm that those concerns still remain. Staff will assist with this effort and offer technical advise going forward. The Department will be working with Councilor Suslovic on arranging a neighborhood meeting where this topic and concern can be further discussed. I anticipate this meeting occurring in mid to end of March. Meeting announcement/schedule will be provided to the local media, posted on the City web site and to the local neighborhood association representative.

(posted with his permission)

Joel Guarna said...

Ed Suslovic of the City Council informs me that a meeting for Rosemont area residents is being planned for March. If you care about this issue, please plan to attend.