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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Dirigo Plaza" should include a crucial Mountain Division Trail link

The Portland and Westbrook planning boards are meeting together tonight to discuss the plans for "Dirigo Plaza," a huge shopping center complex with a Walmart that's being proposed on a former quarry just over the Westbrook city line.

Image courtesy of the Portland Press Herald

It's Westbrook's jurisdiction, but Portland has a say in this project as far as traffic impacts are concerned, since it's expected to generate considerable automobile congestion on Brighton Ave. and Riverside St.

To their considerable credit, staff at Portland's City Hall are demanding bike/ped improvements nearby – including new sidewalks and the closure of several right-turn slip lanes along Brighton Avenue.

But the site of the shopping center also straddles the Mountain Division rail line, which has long been planned as a rail-with-trail pathway to downtown Westbrook and beyond to South Windham:

A trail connection could substitute a non-trivial amount of auto traffic off of the surrounding streets with bike and pedestrian traffic on the trail network, so it's a legitimate and relatively low-cost mitigation strategy. Unfortunately, it's not in the developer's plans – so far.

The planning board hearing is tonight, so if anyone else would like to see this trail link happen, please chime in now!

Send comments to the Portland planning board, care of city planner Rick Knowland (rwk@portlandmaine.gov) asking them to reserve a trail right-of-way through the "Dirigo Plaza" site as part of the project's traffic plan.