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PORTLAND — A long-term fix for one of the city’s most troubled intersections has been funded by the region’s source of state and federal highway aid.
On Aug. 21, the Portland Area Regional Comprehensive Transportation System, better known by its PACTS acronym, committed almost $2.9 million to construct two rotaries where Deering and Brighton avenues and Falmouth and Bedford streets meet near the University of Southern Maine campus.
No final designs have been made and the money will not be available until fiscal year 2016.
Preliminary plans to reduce congestion and improve safety hazards in the area call for constructing rotaries at Deering Avenue and Bedford Street, and at the intersection of Brighton and Deering avenues and Falmouth Street. The one-block stretch of Brighton Avenue from Bedford to Falmouth street would be removed.
The funding is part of $24 million in capital improvement spending proposed for 2015 to 2018.
PACTS, a part of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, is the regional recipient of transportation grants that are then disbursed for projects in cities and towns in York and Cumberland counties.
The agency also agreed to fund $330,000 to improve traffic signals and flow on Congress Street from Stevens Avenue to the Fore River Parkway, and $143,000 to improve sidewalks on York Street on the city peninsula.
The funding is based on 110 percent of project cost estimates, a PACTS policy designed to “cover the cost estimate fluctuation between project application and construction bid year timing, generally 2-4 years apart,” according to a memo to City Councilors from city Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky.
The projects were forwarded by City Councilors on July 21. A funding request for $880,000 to construct the first phase of a multi-use path linking Portland and Falmouth on the new Martin’s Point Bridge was not granted.
All awards include the 25 percent required local match, PACTS Senior Transportation Planner Paul Niehoff said Aug. 28. In Portland, this amounts to $835,000. Outgoing City Manager Mark Rees made the matches part of his anticipated fiscal year 2016 Capital Improvement Plan.
The request to fund rotary construction was increased from $1.9 million approved by City Councilors July 21. Bobinsky said Tuesday the increased estimate is due to design changes DOT officials wanted at the proposed Bedford Street-Deering Avenue rotary.
“It was a radius issue to make sure trucks can make the turns,” he said.
The rotaries would be combined with improved pedestrian crossings and islands intended to make “the intersections safe for the blind and visually impaired,” according to the city application.
City and USM officials, and neighborhood residents have been meeting for at least two years to develop alternatives at the intersections, considered a “high accident” location by the Maine Department of Transportation.
Statistics compiled during the initial application process last winter showed 20 accidents in the area over the last three years, with about seven resulting in injuries.
The accident rate is considered 17 percent higher than typical for the traffic volume by DOT standards.
Bobinsky said USM will also contribute to the cost of engineering studies for the rotaries.
Once the final design is ready, Bobinsky said agreements between the city, PACTS and the DOT will have to be signed. He anticipated that will happen early next summer.
The city will be responsible for items such as city utility adjustments, traffic signal system upgrades and pavement markings.
Traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists head east Tuesday morning at the intersection of Falmouth Street, and Deering and Brighton avenues. Funding has been approved to build two rotaries to relieve congestion and enhance safety.