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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Will "The Forefront at Thompson's Point" scuttle a key link in Portland's Bikeway Network?

On the western edge of the Portland peninsula, the Mountain Division railway offers a scenic direct route between Portland and downtown Westbrook — and from there, on to Windham, Standish, and Fryeburg. The corridor (shown in red in the map below) has long been envisioned as a regional bike and pedestrian connector — a safe and scenic alternative to travel along the outer Congress Street bottleneck.

A 10-foot-wide shared use path (highlighted in green) already extends from the Portland Transportation Center, the easternmost point of the Mountain Division line, along the Fore River Parkway to Veterans Bridge and West Commercial Street, where another trail connection into downtown is in the works. The next link westward would go through the planned Thompson's Point development to the area behind the Westgate shopping center.

That development, called "The Forefront at Thompson's Point," has spent several years in limbo, but it's going back to the Planning Board yet again on Tuesday to seek approval of a scaled-back Master Development Plan.

And unfortunately, the developers' new Master Plan cuts the Mountain Division off in favor of a surface parking lot. A trail could be carved out from portions of a single row of parking stalls, but the developers say they can't sacrifice 12 or so parking spots in a development that's planning to construct 1,290 parking spaces in all.

The good news is that city staff are pressing the developers to be more creative and figure out a way to fit the trail in. It's helpful that the trail corridor is in the city's official Comprehensive Plan, as part of the "Planned Bikeway and Pedestrian Network" approved by the City Council in December 2012.

If you want a safe bike and pedestrian link between the Portland Transportation Center and the Stroudwater neighborhood (and eventually on to Westbrook), chime in now by sending an email to the city's Planning Board and the City Council.

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