Portland Bayside transportation plan nears completion

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PORTLAND — The future of transportation in Bayside could be one of shared streets, more two-way traffic and altered intersections.

Those are details of a master plan presented Dec. 10 at City Hall, and now in its final stages.

“A lot of what we will do is emphasize short-term things that don’t cost as much,” Transportation Program Manager Bruce Hyman said as he opened the last of three workshops on the plan.

The plan is being developed as part of a study funded by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System and city government. Study leader Carol Morris said the master plan should be completed by the end of the month and forwarded to the City Council after the first of the year.

“We have moved at record speed,” Morris said.

TY Lin engineer Tom Errico detailed the plan elements. He focused on the need to make the area bounded by Interstate 295 and Washington, Cumberland and Forest avenues safer for all modes of transportation; better connections between streets, and improving public transportation and access to trails.

Most immediately, the plan advocates eliminating one lane of traffic from Elm and Preble streets in favor of 6- or 8-foot wide bicycle lanes, which could also be done without a loss of on-street parking, Errico said.

“It is taking one of the travel lanes and giving it to the bike lanes; we don’t anticipate sidewalk and curbing changes,” he said.

In the longer term, the study recommends returning two-way traffic to both streets, although a cost for that has not been estimated.

“It seems feasible,” Errico said.

The potential lane reduction on Elm Street between Congress Street and Cumberland Avenue concerned Parking Manager John Peverada, because it could stall traffic coming out of a parking garage.

The master plan also looks at methods to better connect side streets, including Lancaster, Oxford, Chestnut and Pearl streets, and creating sections of Kennebec and Lancaster streets that could be more open to pedestrians.

Suggestions to return two-way traffic to Oxford Street would eliminate on-street parking in a residential area, and Peverada noted the street is also used for parking by Portland High School students.

The plan advocates extending Pearl Street to Marginal Way, but notes the city does not have a right of way to make this happen. Errico also said a new traffic signal will eventually be installed at Marginal Way and Chestnut Street; it is required as part of the mixed use development known as the “Midtown” project on Somerset Street.

In East Bayside, a focal point of the study is the confluence of Washington Avenue with Fox and Walnut streets. Errico said the plan will not recommend traffic signals because traffic volume is not high enough. However, extending curbs and reducing parking spaces could increase visibility for turning traffic.

Errico noted one of the biggest areas of opportunity is the intersection of Marginal Way, Franklin Street and the access to I-295. Upcoming work to separate stormwater and wastewater flow will allow for a redesign of the intersection that will include better connections to the Bayside Trail.

Errico said the traffic lights will be timed to allow pedestrians to cross Franklin Street in one cycle, instead of having to wait on the median for a second walk signal.

A westbound travel lane on Marginal Way will also be eliminated, and a new pedestrian crossing from the park and ride lot on Marginal Way will be constructed.

Comments and details on the master plan can be found online at portlandstudies.org.

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

The Bayside Transportation Master Plane detailed Dec. 10 at Portland City Hall presents a variety of options and methods to improve access and safety in the area from Deering Oaks Park to Washington Avenue.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.