Portland to improve parts of Congress Street, others for cyclists

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PORTLAND — The city and the Maine Department of Transportation will be making changes to some problematic city streets this summer during paving projects on outer Congress Street, St. John Street, and Park Avenue.

Outer Congress Street will be reduced to two travel lanes and a center turning lane in the area around Hobart Street, Portland Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky said. There will be new left-turning lanes from Congress Street onto Waldo and Westbrook streets.

That section of Congress Street will also become slightly more narrow. The shoulders will be expanded to 2 1/2 feet, an improvement that cyclists will benefit from, Bobinsky said.

The overall theme of the project is to improve safety and recognize multiple forms of use, Bobinsky said. While outer Congress Street is a major arterial, accommodating 15,000-20,000 cars a day, it also runs through a neighborhood with businesses, trails, and cyclists riding for pleasure or to get to work at Unum and nearby medical facilities, he said.

“We’re asking motorists to be mindful of that,” Bobinsky said.

The city will test a new road feature for cyclists, creating a “climbing lane” that will hug the median and make it safer and easier for cyclists turning onto Frost Street, Bobinsky said.

Paving on Congress Street will begin in late June, Bobinsky said. The project will include two phases of surface overlay, but transportation workers will paint the new lanes and markings onto the first layer so that motorists get used to it and can provide feedback before the the final surface and lanes are complete.

The project is a partnership with the DOT, which will conduct a survey on the improvements over the summer. “We want to make sure we’ve thought this through,” Bobinsky said.

A second DOT project set to begin in late June or early July will focus on making the areas of St. John Street and Park Avenue near Hadlock Field and the intersection with Congress Street more hospitable to bike and pedestrian traffic, Bobinsky said.

The project will revise through lanes at the intersection of St. John and Congress to accommodate new bike lanes. The project should also create better pedestrian crosswalks at Hadlock Field, Bobinsky said.

“It’s a way to … distribute the pavement that best accommodates different modes of transportation,” he said. “These are urban streets and we’re trying to respect and recognize the fact that these really are streets that have multiple users.”

Andrew Cullen can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 of @acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @ACullenFore.