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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You could fit most of the Old Port inside Portland's obsolete Exit 6 interchange

With debt to this post on Streetsblog, I was curious to see how much of the Old Port could potentially fit in the acres of downtown real estate occupied by the Exit 6 interchange on Interstate 295. Most of it, as it turns out. In the gif above, an aerial view of Exit 6 alternates with a rotated view of the Old Port at the same scale. That's the green-roofed City Hall at the western end of Exit 6 near the USM parking garage, and the Custom House is at the other end near Preble Street. Post Office Park occupies less space than the lawn of a single cloverleaf loop.

This cloverleaf intersection, by the way, is one of the most dangerous places to drive in the entire state — it's the home to several designated "high-crash locations" and has been described by state officials as having an "obsolete" design that whips cars into vortices of high-speed merges. But those are just lovable foibles! Our highway engineers literally can't think about getting rid of this adorable, city-eating monstrosity.

The Exit 6 interchange is a prime example of Governor Paul LePage's socialist land policy, whereby acres of extremely valuable real estate are wasted in extremely inefficient uses by the central-planning bureaucrats at the State Department of Transportation.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The new Martin's Point Bridge — open to (nonmotorized) traffic

As of this evening the new Martin's Point Bridge sidewalk — a wide multi-use path designed to be shared by bikes and pedestrians — is open to non-motorized traffic between Portland and Falmouth. I took a ride out there this afternoon after work and it's pretty nice, even though it's still very much in the middle of a heavy construction site.

Some notes:

  • Though it's a nice path to ride on, getting there from either side is still kind of a challenge — you'll need to thread your way through a lot of construction traffic and ride over some sandy, unpaved sections where the sidewalk hasn't been built yet.
  • In addition to this path on the east side of the bridge, the finished product will also include a (narrower) sidewalk on the west side plus on-street bike lanes. Like the approaches, though, all that stuff is also under construction.  
  • The project is also building out a sidewalk connection from the bridge to the Martin's Point Healthcare campus, and last summer, the town of Falmouth constructed a sidewalk and installed some additional traffic calming along Route 1 between the bridge and Route 88. That means it's now possible for the first time in decades — maybe ever? — to walk on sidewalks from Falmouth's town center to downtown Portland.  
  • Whereas the old bridge featured a fairly steep incline where it hit land in Portland, the new one rises gradually along its entire length, which is nice.
  • The old bridge had four lanes for cars and an unlit, dingy sidewalk for everyone else. This new bridge is just as wide, but with only two lanes for cars there's much more room for non-motorized transportation — and officials expect maintenance costs to be significantly lower as well.