Freeport bridge project may include bike, pedestrian lane

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FREEPORT — Improvements along U.S. Route 1 could include a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian corridor on a revamped Cousins River Bridge.

Route 1 south is scheduled to be repaved by the Maine Department of Transportation next spring. At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Peter Joseph said town staff have identified several opportunities to consolidate additional projects into the paving project.

MDOT is also in the preliminary stages of designing a replacement for the Cousins River Bridge, slated to be completed by the end of next summer. The bridge now has two travel lanes and two narrow shoulders.

One option being considered in the design is adding a lane for bicycles and pedestrians to the bridge, Joseph said. This could be some combination of buffered multi-use shoulders, dedicated sidewalks, or a separate multi-use bicycle and pedestrian path, which would essentially be a third, separate travel lane.

The Freeport Active Living and Traffic and Parking Committees asked Joseph to advocate with MDOT for access for bicyclists and pedestrians in the replacement design.

Travel lanes in MDOT’s preliminary design for Route 1 would be 11 feet wide and buffered bike lanes would be added where the shoulder now is, on the northbound travel side of Route 1.

Councilor Eric Horne asked if a joint request from both Freeport and Yarmouth could be submitted, since the bridge links both towns. Joseph said he’d find out if Yarmouth officials would support the option.

He also said the life span of the bridge would be around 60 years, so the design should be something the council is comfortable with keeping that long.

Originally, MDOT proposed two separate paving projects for Route 1.

The first, from the Yarmouth town line and Exit 20, was scheduled for fiscal year 2018 and funded in this year’s capital budget. The second, from Exit 20 to West Street, was planned for 2019. Now, MDOT is proposing to combine the paving for both sections and complete it in 2018.

MDOT predicts the financial benefits include an estimated 5 percent savings on the first phase, as well as avoiding any increases in asphalt prices on the second phase. The town is responsible for 25 percent of the projected costs, with the remainder provided by the Portland Area Comphrehensive Transit System.

Additionally, Joseph said there would be a benefit of combining the projects in terms of traffic disruption.

On Tuesday, the council scheduled a public hearing on Jan. 2 to consider supplemental appropriation of $200,000 from the town’s Public Infrastructure Capital Reserve Fund to provide local matching funds for paving the second portion of Route 1.

“I feel that this request is appropriate in this case, as the balance in the (reserve) is being saved for this exact purpose next fiscal year,” Joseph said in a Dec. 14 letter to the council.

Earlier this fall, Town Planner Donna Larson found $100,000 in PACTS funding that was approved for a bicycle and pedestrian project in the “Portland North Region” – Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, and Freeport – but hasn’t been allocated.

Joseph said the town has received verbal approval from Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland and PACTS to make the formal request to utilize that money for construction of  a sidewalk on the south side of Route 1 from Pine Street, where the sidewalk ends, to a proposed METRO bus stop. The length would be approximately 700 feet.

MDOT estimates the cost would be $105,000, but the town estimates it would be closer to $140,000. The town would be responsible for the difference between the $100,000 provided by PACTS and the actual project cost.

The council showed unanimous support of the proposal, as long funding of $100,000 is received from PACTS and the final cost is less than $140,000.

“(METRO) Breez has been a dramatic success,” Councilor John Egan said. “I think it’s only going to go up … this is an incredible opportunity.”

A crosswalk is also being proposed to be added between the Route 1 Park and Ride facility and Maine Beer Co. across U.S. Route 1. The project would be funded almost completely by METRO, MDOT, and Maine Beer Co. The town would be responsible for labor costs for initial construction and annual maintenance.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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