Parking changes debut with new Portland school crossings

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PORTLAND — Although the end is in sight for construction on Brackett Street in the city’s West End, residents should be prepared for a street with a new look and new parking rules.

Two new crosswalks that connect Howard C. Reiche Community School to the other side of the street have been under construction for a few weeks.

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said the work is wrapping up, with some repaving work and painting crosswalk lines remaining. Additionally, he said flashing lights will be installed.

“We’re looking to wrap it up as soon as we can,” he said.

Leah Whalen, president of the Reiche Parent Teacher Organization, said the PTO is grateful for the improved crossings, but had hoped to see the work completed sooner.

“I would say that it’s unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to get it completed before school started; that would have been ideal,” Whalen said, but added the organization is pleased the city is doing the work.

Whalen said Thibodeau and a group of parents worked hard to get the city to make the improvements. “The city really responded to that,” she said.

Thibodeau said the changes on Brackett Street are intended to slow traffic, to alert motorists to the school zone, and to increase the visibility of students and other pedestrians. With the way the crosswalks and parking were previously configured, Thibodeau said it was difficult to see students in the crosswalks, and drivers weren’t always clear they were in a school zone until they reached the school.

“The initial plan was only for one crosswalk, but I worked really hard with the PTO and the folks in the community to look at, could we do two, and we came up with a way to do both,” Thibodeau said.

The construction did cause traffic delays at times, and for a few days parking was allowed on both sides of the street near the intersection with Spring Street, which resulted in some congestion.

But now, between the intersection and the first crosswalk, two-hour parking is only allowed on the west side of the street, closest to the school. Previously, parking was allowed on the east side.

“Brackett Street is always a bit chaotic, and it’s more chaotic with traffic caused by construction,” Whalen said. “We hope it will clear up when it’s all done.”

Ian Jacobs, president of the West End Neighborhood Association, said he and others had been advocating for the changes, especially increased crosswalk safety, for a while.

“I would say everyone is quite happy it’s finally being addressed,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said in addition to improved safety for students and pedestrians, the work being done to slow traffic was much appreciated, especially since “that section of Brackett tends to be a fairly fast section.”

Whalen said the potential loss of parking is outweighed by increased safety.

“It’s always lousy when we lose parking in the West End, as a resident it always stinks, and hope we don’t lose too much due to safety work, but (I) still think safety work is very important,” she said.

Thibodeau said he didn’t think there had been a loss of parking spots in transitioning to the other side of the street. He said the move also allows continuous parking; before, the area for parking was interrupted by driveways.

“From a safety perspective,” he said, “it’s far safer.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Parking is now prohibited on the east side of Brackett Street in Portland’s West End, near Reiche Community School and the intersection with Spring Street.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.