Right-turn-only restaurant exit satisfies South Portland planners

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

SOUTH PORTLAND — There’s already takeout. There’s already delivery.

Now there will be a drive-through option for Chinese food in the city when China Express fills vacant commercial space at 1122 Broadway.

The application received Planning Board approval Oct. 10, although members expressed concerns about increased traffic at the intersection of Broadway and Evans Street.

The applicant, Portland Broadway Holdings, plans to convert the existing 2,400-square-foot building into a 40-seat, full-service restaurant with a drive-up window and parking for 17 cars.

Lei Wang, of Portland Broadway Holdings, said China Express will be a small, family-owned restaurant open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. With the board’s approval, Portland Broadway Holdings is set to begin renovating, but Wang has not scheduled an opening date.

The property is near several other food establishments: Amato’s, Dock’s Seafood and Domino’s. The building, which previously housed North East Turf, made news last year when a 19-year-old driver crashed his car into it.

“I think that building is there and it needs to be utilized,” board member Linda Boudreau said. “I like very much the concept of having these four restaurants really close together. I think good business brings more business and when you have food establishments together, they all do well.”

Consulting group Traffic Solutions projected that including the drive-through in the mix will generate 25 percent more trips on average, 50 percent of which would be “pass-by trips,” or motorists already traveling on Broadway. 

Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said at first he had “qualms” about the building’s proximity to the intersection. To alleviate this, he said, the applicant proposed a right-turn-only exit closest to the intersection, and only allowomg left turns at the far end of the lot, except during peak evening travel hours from 3-6 p.m.

In a memo to Haeuser, Police Chief Edward Googins said left turns would be “very problematic.”

Haeuser also read into the record a letter from resident Wendy Moser, of Broadway, who said the corner is already “over-populated” and the lot is “too small to accommodate a restaurant.”

“Broadway is a very noisy and crowded street and having more traffic and night noise is really going to affect our sense of the neighborhood,” she wrote. 

Planning Board members supported the proposal, but also said they’d like to see left turns prohibitied at the exit. 

Jayson Haskell, of DM Roma Consulting Engineers, represented the applicant and said they’d be willing to accomodate the board’s request for modifications.

Board member Elsa Mullin said it makes sense to prohibit left turns, but worried that the increase in cars turning right and then either pulling “dangerous U-turns” or turning around in Amato’s or Dock’s Seafood to go westbound could back up traffic more or disrupt the surrounding neighborhood. 

“While I think it’s safe and necessary to not have that left-hand turn, I don’t know if that’s going to be a great solution,” Mullin said. “I don’t think you’ll have that big roundabout happen.”

Members Katherine Gatti, who lives in the area, and Boudreau also said they’d only like right turns allowed. 

Boudreau said she thinks the city will have to rework the entire roadway and intersection within the next five years. 

The Planning Board unanimously approved the application with the condition that the applicant will submit revised plans for right-turn-only exits.

“I appreciate the willingness of the applicant to accept the reality of the location,” Chairman Kevin Carr said. “This is a pretty good plan overall.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Vehicles drive past the vacant building near the intersection of Broadway and Evans Street in South Portland that will become the China Express restaurant and drive-through. Left turns from the business will be prohibited.

China Express will be located at 1122 Broadway.

0