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Portland seeks funds for intersection improvements

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Portland seeks funds for intersection improvements

PORTLAND — A City Council committee is backing a request for federal and state funds that could bring changes to two key Portland intersections.

The Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee on Dec. 18 endorsed an application for funds to overhaul the six-way intersection of Brighton and Deering avenues and Falmouth Street, near the University of Southern Maine.

The committee also endorsed an application for funds to install traffic signals at the corner of Commercial and High streets, in the waterfront area.

The applications are due to be submitted by February to the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, the agency responsible each year for portioning federal and state funds to regional transportation projects.

If the applications are approved, the funds would be awarded in 2015. The city would be responsible for paying 25 percent of each project's costs, probably through its capital improvement budget.

In August, the council voted to move ahead with plans for reconfiguring the Brighton-Deering-Falmouth junction, one of the city's most congested, most confusing and most dangerous.

The spaghetti-like intersection has an accident rate 17 percent higher than typical for its traffic volume, according to the city. The state Department of Transportation designates the area a "high-accident location."

The city's plans calls for constructing two roundabouts, at that intersection and at the smaller intersection of Deering Avenue and Bedford Street, a block east. The roundabouts – one-way traffic circles with entrances and exits to adjoining streets – would be the first in the city.

In addition, the one-block stretch of Brighton Avenue between Falmouth and Bedford streets would be eliminated.

The cost of construction is estimated at $2 million, according to a memo from city engineer Kathi Earley, with the city responsible for paying about $500,000.

Installing traffic signals at Commercial and High streets is important because the intersection is becoming "a major pedestrian crossing point as development moves more activity west along Commercial Street," Earley said in her memo.

In 2015, the state Department of Transportation will repave the intersection, and the city plans to install granite curbing around its perimeter. The traffic signals will allow for improved pedestrian crossings on both Commercial and High streets, according to the memo. The signals will be timed to work in coordination with existing traffic lights at nearby High and York streets.

The anticipated cost of the project is $250,000, with the city paying about $63,000.

"The city consistently applies for these grants in order to improve transportation for everyone in Portland, whether they're driving, walking or riding," said the committee chairman, Councilor Dave Marshall.

PACTS is expected to review and score the funding applications by July, according to the memo.

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