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Baxter Boulevard in Portland to reopen Monday

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Baxter Boulevard in Portland to reopen Monday

PORTLAND — Motorists will be able to drive the full length of Baxter Boulevard Monday morning, after the city reopens a portion of the street that has been closed for over seven months during a sewer construction project.

The 1.4-mile stretch of the boulevard, from Bates Street to Vannah Avenue, will be open to motor vehicles at 7 a.m., City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Friday.

The city's Department of Public Services closed the roadway Jan. 30 in order to install two storm-water conduits under the boulevard and nearby Payson Park The concrete conduits, each with a capacity of 1 million gallons, will store a mix of sewage and storm water that can be sent to the Portland Water District's treatment facility in the East End, instead of being discharged without treatment into Back Cove.

With the conduits installed, the $10 million project is expected to be complete in October.

In June, the city hosted a series of family-activity events on the closed roadway. Clegg said the City Council's Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee will consider closing a section of the boulevard on Sundays to continue the events in warmer months.

More than half of the city's 200 miles of sewer pipes combine sewage and storm water into a single drainage system, some of which dates to the Civil War era. The system often overflows during heavy rains and snow melts, sending waste water – including the potentially harmful raw sewage – into nearby waterways.

Under order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city spent nearly $100 million between 1993 and 2010 to reduce sewer overflow volumes 42 percent,  from 720 million gallons to 420 million gallons annually.

Next year, the city will begin another $170 million set of projects to reduce sewer overflow volumes to 87 million gallons annually.

"Closing a major street is never easy," said City Manager Mark Rees in a prepared statement. "I hope the community will agree that the short term inconvenience we experienced is far outweighed by the benefits to Back Cove and Casco Bay.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.