Portland seeks input on future of Franklin Arterial

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PORTLAND — Redesign of the major corridor that slices across the city’s peninsula will be the subject of a community workshop on Wednesday, April 29.

The Franklin Street Arterial Study Committee is looking for ideas from the public about how the arterial should be redesigned to better serve drivers as well as the surrounding neighborhood. The workshop is intended to glean ideas concerning vehicle, pedestrian and bicyclist travel, open space and historic preservation, as well as possible economic development opportunities.

“This is a chance for us to present our (research) and brainstorm,” said Markos Miller, a chairman of the committee. The committee is not coming in to the workshop with suggested options or renderings, but instead is counting on participants to come up with visions for the arterial.

“It’s a blank-slate design exercise,” Miller said. “We’ve avoided any sort of specific designs.”

There are, of course, goals for the committee in its study of the street, and making the strip pedestrian friendly is a big one. Right now, much of Franklin Street is without sidewalks and biking on the road is treacherous. There are also sand paths through the median where walkers cross from the East End to Bayside, rather than hiking to a corner to use a crosswalk at Fox Street or Cumberland Avenue. 

Several of these paths are where streets used to cross Franklin, but were discontinued when the street was widened. For example, there is a well-worn path from Oxford Street to East Oxford Street. Part of the study committee’s research has been to study the option of reconnecting streets such as Federal Street or Newbury Street.

The committee has also explored moving lanes of traffic to create land for development and for open space, possibly getting rid of the wide, grassy median running most of the length of the street. Franklin Street until the 1960s was lined with homes and businesses, but the old neighborhood was razed to build the arterial.

The Franklin Street Arterial Study Committee was created by the city in September 2008, the result of a group of community members banding together to speak out against the Portland Peninsula Traffic Study. That study, which was released in 2007 after several years of research, suggested the arterial be widened to as much as eight lanes in some spots. Residents, meanwhile, said they wanted the street to become more pedestrian friendly and to have an urban feel, with buildings along the street.

Miller was also a leader of that initial citizen group, called the Franklin Reclamation Authority. 

After the workshop April 29, the committee is expected to take the information collected from the public and sift out common themes. Those themes will be used to produce three design alternatives for the arterial. Miller said the committee has applied for a grant from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to fund a feasibility study.

Residents interested in attending the free workshop are encouraged to register in advance on the city Web site.

The workshop begins at 6:40 p.m. at Ocean Gateway, the city’s cruise ship terminal off Thames Street in the Eastern Waterfront, and is expected to end at 9:40 p.m.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net