Portland's Park Avenue lane changes get mixed marks

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PORTLAND — As the city celebrated a new way to roll on Park Avenue, opinions were mixed on the changes to traffic flow, parking and bicycle access.

“I like it, I appreciate the city has done it,” Steve Carroll said Sept. 13 as he sat on his bicycle at the traffic signal at State Street and Park Avenue.

Farther up the block, Seth Hurley was less sure after parking between Deering Avenue and Mellen Street.

“I am all for biking, but I got along just fine before the new lanes got here,” he said.

The $100,000 retooling of Park Avenue from Deering Oaks Park to Valley Street was completed earlier this month in advance of the grand opening Sept. 14. Last week’s event included a ribbon-cutting and Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Belinda Ray riding along the new 5-foot bike lanes painted next to the sidewalk.

Placing those lanes required shifting parking spots into the street and removing one travel lane in each direction. The parking spots and bike lanes are also separated by bollards that will be removed in the winter months, according to Public Works Director Chris Branch.

Hurley expressed concern the new parking lane will put his car at greater risk for getting hit.

Carroll, on the other hand, said placing bike lanes between the sidewalk and parking spaces made his ride safer by reducing the chances of a driver opening a car door without looking to see if anyone was pedaling by.

Branch and Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said the new design has been well received overall, and credited Project Engineer Jennifer Ladd for guiding the work.

“It was fun to work on and fun to use,” Ladd said after she and her daughter Claire helped snip a ribbon strung between bollards on Park Avenue at State Street.

Her excitement, however, was tempered with caution.

“We just switched the order to make it safer for everyone,” she said. “It is very important that everyone follow the rules of the road.”

Carroll said his biggest worry about riding the stretch of road is drivers turning right may not see him because he is screened as he approaches an intersection.

Changes along Park Avenue have affected available on-street parking spaces, but the extent of gains or losses depends on which section is being considered.

The largest increase comes in daytime parking (7 a.m.-6 p.m.) between State and High streets, where 26 spaces are now available.

In the stretch between Mellen Street and Deering Avenue, 14 nighttime spaces have been eliminated.

Thibodeau said he hopes the lane changes can be implemented on other city streets, but Branch said Park Avenue is unique because of its width. Even implementing the changes going up State Street to Congress Street would eliminate too much parking, Branch said.

Overall, he said he was pleased at how the changes have been carried out.

“I amazed at how well people have adapted to the parking,” Branch said, adding he expects the bollards will be removed around Thanksgiving and return next spring. 

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

Portland resident Steve Carroll pulls into the intersection of State Street and Park Avenue on Sept. 13. Carroll likes the new lanes for bicyclists, but remains concerned about visibility at intersections.

Portland has placed explanatory signs along the length of Park Avenue where new lane designs are in place.

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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.