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South Portland council supports Long Creek pedestrian-bicycle bridge

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South Portland council supports Long Creek pedestrian-bicycle bridge

SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Land Trust on Monday presented the City Council a feasibility study for a possible pedestrian-bicycle bridge over Long Creek.

The feasibility study by Sebago Technics detailed six options for building a bridge that would connect Portland's West End with South Portland.

SPLT member Shay Bellas, who is co-managing the project, said the council endorsed the option recommended by the land trust.

The preferred bridge route would not affect the proposed expansion of the Portland International Jetport and would have little impact on Long Creek, an urban-impaired stream that a large group of stakeholders are trying to restore.

The bridge would cross Long Creek near the southern boundary of the Jetport, requiring a trail be built along Interstate 295's southbound lane. The trail would connect to South Portland's Jetport Plaza Road using an existing trail and a road planned for Brick Hill.

Bellas said that short of some technical assistance from the Planning Department, the land trust will not seek funding from the city. Instead, the group is working with private and public groups to secure grants and raise money for the bridge, estimated to cost $5.5 million.

"We really don't think it's appropriate to ask the taxpayers of South Portland to pay for this," Bellas said."We see this an opportunity to pull a lot of different people and organizations together."

Mayor Tom Blake complimented the land trust for bringing the Jetport, DOT and Brick Hill developer Richard Berman to the table to reach a consensus about the bridge.

"They did an excellent job of getting everyone on-board before bring it to the council," Blake said.

The land trust is currently working with Portland Trails, the Maine Bike Coalition and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to secure grants designed for alternative transportation.

"Everyone is eager to come to the table," Bellas said. "There is a lot of enthusiasm and energy out there we would like to take advantage of."

The group is currently organizing an initial fundraising drive to raise $300,000 for the bridge design.

Bellas said the land trust would ultimately like to time the bridge construction with proposed expansion of the Jetport's cross-wind runway and a state reconfiguration of Exit 4. Neither of those projects, however, have concrete time lines.

"We have some time," she said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net