More changes coming to Route 1 corridor in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — State transportation officials are planning two projects expected to significantly alter the Route 1 corridor spanning the new Veterans Memorial Bridge and Main Street.

One project will involve building a dedicated bike and pedestrian lane on the new bridge between Portland and South Portland, which is already under construction. The other will remove the overpass at the end of the Interstate 295 Exit 4 off-ramp that directs traffic to Knightville and Lincoln Street.

Both projects are being undertaken by the Maine Department of Transportation.

Project Manager Jeff Folsom said the state plans to build a 3,600-foot long bike and pedestrian path from the Portland side of the new Veterans Memorial Bridge to Main Street in South Portland.

Folsom said the path, which will be on the northbound side of the bridge, will vary in width from 8 feet to 12 feet. Where possible, the lane will be separated from traffic by a 5-foot grass esplanade. In tighter portions, it will be protected by a guard rail.

Bicycle riders and pedestrians strongly advocated for a dedicated travel lane when the state was seeking input on the design of the new bridge.

The $1.25 million project is an add-on to the $63 million bridge replacement being done by Woolwich-based Reed & Reed Construction. Folsom said construction on the path will begin this fall, and will likely be finished when the new bridge is complete in July 2012.

The project will connect to another area of Main Street that will undergo construction this fall.

MDOT manager for that project, Ben Condon, said the plan is to remove the “Knightville” bridge at the end of the southbound Exit 4 off-ramp from I-295.

Condon said that bridge is seldom used and has fallen into disrepair, but the state cannot afford to build a new one.

He said residents last year strongly opposed to a plan that would have put a traffic signal where Main Street meets the I-295 connector near the Main Street Redemption Center, so the department revised its plans.

Residents were concerned about tanker trucks having to accelerate up the hill and through their neighborhood, he said.

Now, the state plans to create a dedicated left-turn lane for traffic from I-295 trying to access Billy Vachon Drive, which leads to the oil tank farms.

Condon said what is now two lanes of traffic on the connector off-ramp will be narrowed to one lane to prevent traffic snarls from the turning traffic.

“People who are wanting to make that left-hand turn will be able to slide into that pocket and stop safely without having to worry about traffic building up behind them,” Condon said.

Condon said the roughly $1.4 million project should start and end this fall, though final paving may have to wait until next spring.

DOT will make presentations on the projects at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 3, in City Council chambers at City Hall, 25 Cottage Road.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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The scene earlier this week at the new Veterans Memorial Bridge being built over the Fore River between Portland and South Portland, which will include a dedicated lane for bicycyle riders and pedestrians.

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