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Broadway changes get South Portland council nod

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Broadway changes get South Portland council nod

SOUTH PORTLAND — Plans to reconfigure Broadway near Ferry Village will proceed this summer, but the full scope of the work may need more city funding.

A Maine Department of Transportation project to resurface Broadway from Cottage Road to Pickett Street will include redesigned travel lanes between Stanford and Walnut streets to make room for a center turn lane.

Because of insufficient gravel under the asphalt at the edges of the street, some sections could require more than resurfacing, which would add almost $90,000 to the current $85,000 city share for the work.

At a City Council workshop Monday, City Manager Jim Gailey and Planning Director Tex Haeuser received council support for the plan, despite the potential added cost.

The project has the unanimous endorsement of the 11-member South Portland Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee, although it means no dedicated bicycle lane can be created, Councilor Patti Smith said.

Smith, a committee member, and said making space for bicyclists on that part of Broadway is difficult.

“There is not that much real estate to make it a bona fide bike lane,” she said.

Haeuser and Gailey said MDOT test borings at the edges of the roadway initially indicated the gravel under the asphalt might not properly hold the weight of traffic.

Gailey said he is looking for other sources to fund the additional road work, if needed.

"If needed" became an important phrase Monday night, as Haeuser and MDOT Project Manager Denis Lovely said revised study indicates the gravel is stable, and adding an inch of asphalt to the current 5-inch surface will strengthen the road.

The work on Broadway will be timed to coincide with improvements at Broadway and Mussey Street that will add enhanced pedestrian crossings with push-button walk and yield signals for pedestrians. Lovely said the jobs should go out to bid in early March.

West of the intersection, parking outside the apartments at 425 Broadway known as Hazard Tower will likely be eliminated and a small lot and turn-in area will be built on the property.

Haeuser and traffic engineer Steve Sawyer of Sebago Technics traversed some of the same ground last week during a public forum hosted by the Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee.

The forum, attended by about 15 people – half of them members of the 11-person committee – traced the course of improvements and plans to make it easier to get around the city by foot or bicycle.

Held at the Opportunity Alliance offices in Brick Hill, the forum focused to a degree on the challenges of making western South Portland more accessible.

Waterfront and Transportation Director Tom Meyers was told by commuters the convergent 24A and 24B bus routes could be tweaked to provide more west-end service.

Sawyer suggested a sidewalk on Westbrook Street next to the municipal golf course, which would make it safer for neighborhood children to walk to school.

But the discussion still returned to Broadway, the Meetinghouse Hill section of the city and the difficulty some residents have walking or riding to Knightville.

Gary Higginbottom said he had just moved to the city and saw vast potential for getting around by foot and bicycle.

But first, some solutions were needed for the "major physical and psychological barrier that is Broadway,” he said.

Higginbottom said the cycles for crossing streets are poorly timed, and the crosswalk buttons don't always work. He suggested the emphasis on accommodating vehicle traffic should be re-evaluated.

But with an estimated 50,000 vehicles passing daily through the intersection of Broadway and Waterman Drive near the Casco Bay Bridge, Sawyer said traffic and walk signals need to be geared to traffic flow.

Crossing signals are set to a concurrent phase to avoid completely stopping traffic, and enhanced signs have been installed at some crosswalks, like those where the Greenbelt crosses Ocean Street and Cottage Road near Mill Creek Park.

But Sawyer said installing traffic stop lights at pedestrian crossings set away from intersections has not taken hold nationally, despite some ambiguity about laws requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Maine House District 122 Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, meanwhile, has filed initial legislation that would require motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.