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State to host meeting on reconstruction of I-295 Exit 7 in Portland

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State to host meeting on reconstruction of I-295 Exit 7 in Portland

PORTLAND — The state's plan to widen the northbound and southbound ramps at Exit 7 of Interstate 295 will be the subject of a public hearing next week.

The project is aimed at relieving traffic jams coming on and off of Franklin Arterial, but opponents say the state's plan could block Bayside pedestrian access to Back Cove.

The League of Young Voters coalition, Maine Alliance for Sustainable Transportation, sent an e-mail this week encouraging members to attend the Oct. 19 meeting and voice concerns over widening the southbound off-ramp at Exit 7.

The alliance wants the Maine Department of Transportation to fund a pedestrian passage from Franklin Arterial, across the southbound ramp and under the I-295 overpass, to Back Cove.

Markos Miller of the Franklin Reclamation Authority also sent a mass e-mail this week, calling on MDOT to re-examine the Exit 7 plan.

While Miller said the plan has good elements, including a new ramp traffic signal and crosswalks, he said not including a 10-foot wide pedestrian access trail is a mistake.

Ernie Martin, the MDOT project manager for Exit 7, said pedestrian access will be taken into account when the state and city begin planning for reconstruction of Franklin Arterial. 

"The controversy with the walking trail, that is not associated with this project, but we will touch upon it at the hearing," Martin said.

The MDOT plan calls for a lane to be added to the northbound exit ramp, and a signal at the end of the ramp to allow people getting off of the highway to get on Franklin without waiting to merge with traffic coming off I-295 southbound.

The southbound exit will also get an added lane off the highway and around the curved ramp.

Martin said he expects the project will begin in the spring, and should take about six months.

"It is probably going to be all night time construction," he said. The project is estimated to cost $1.8 million.

The public hearing is Monday, Oct. 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the rehearsal hall at Merrill Auditorium.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net