PORTLAND — The excavator working just outside Woodford Food & Beverage on April 11 was hard to miss.
“Of course we will be affected, but you have to have the long-term view,” restaurant owner Birch Shambaugh said as crews from Shaw Brothers Construction dug into their work installing utility infrastructure.
This first stage of the second phase of reconstructing Woodfords Corner began a month ago. This year’s work is expected to last until October, and is one of two road construction projects that will affect the Forest Avenue corridor extending toward the University of Southern Maine and Back Cove.
On April 12, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said the Woodfords Corner plan is that “any work that requires a lane closure or would affect any traffic movement would have to be done at night.”
Also on April 12, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin announced Shaw Brothers will begin a sewer separation project in the Forest Avenue corridor this week, though the first phase will have more of an effect on Baxter Boulevard.
From beyond the railroad crossing at Woodfords Corner to the intersection with Lincoln Street, Forest Avenue is being transformed.
The work includes removing a right-turn slip lane from northbound Forest Avenue to Woodford Street; eliminating parking on northbound Forest Avenue between Woodford Street and Vannah Avenue in favor of two outbound travel lanes; adding overhead directional signs, and repaving the entire stretch.
The new traffic lanes and intersection improvements will be complemented by amenities and public art at Woodford’s Corner in an effort to make the area safer and more accessible to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The closed right-turn lane from Forest Avenue to Woodford Street will become a plaza outside the Oddfellow’s Hall, with sculpted lamp posts commissioned by the city Public Art Commission.
Tim Merrill, a co-owner of P.M. Merrill Seafood, said the end result will certainly be more attractive.
“It looks like it will be beautiful,” he said of the plans for new trees, benches and clearly marked travel lanes for vehicles and bicycles.
It may not be so good for his bottom line, though.
The store, in business since 1946, will lose on-street parkingt, and truck access for deliveries has been inhibited by the already closed turn lane.
“Most of our regulars know we have parking out back,” Merrill said. “(But) we get all the people going out of town. Now they may be gone forever.”
Shambaugh opened Woodford Food & Beverage two years ago, knowing the construction project was in the offing.
“There was a bad association with the corner because of the notorious traffic congestion’. We have a different take; we love it,” Shambaugh said.
The Friends of Woodfords Corner has also emerged to bring residents and business owners together to envision what the neighborhood will become when the work is done.
Shambaugh said the end result fits the restaurant’s intent.
“This is first and foremost a neighborhood business,” Shambaugh said. “This can be measured in decades, not months.”
Sewer separation projects alleviate wastewater overflows at the Portland Water District’s East End treatment plant by redirecting stormwater to Back Cove or Portland Harbor.
Grondin said the new project will affect Baxter Boulevard, Forest Avenue and Bedford and Durham streets in the first phase expected to last until Oct. 31, with work done mostly between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
In the first two weeks, Grondin said, traffic on Baxter Boulevard will be restricted to one lane each way from Dartmouth Street to Preble Street Extension.
During the work, the city will post updates about lane closures and traffic delays. Pickups for trash and recyclables will remain unaffected.
The final repaving of those streets will come in spring 2019, and a second phase of sewer separation work will begin impacting Belmeade and Deerfield roads and Forest Avenue.
Woodford Food & Beverage owner Birch Shambaugh said April 11 construction work at Woodfords Corner may affect short-term business, but will be good for the restaurant’s long-term prospects.
Reconstructing Forest Avenue in Woodfords Corner will eliminate parking spaces between Woodford Street and Vannah Avenue while adding a second outbound traffic lane.
P.J. Merrill Seafood co-owner Tim Merrill said losing parking spaces in front of the Forest Avenue store is the hardest part of Woodfords Corner improvements he generally supports.
An overhead view of Woodfords Corner details the changes to Forest Avenue and surrounding streets, including improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. Work is expected to last through October.