South Portland awards Knightville construction to Gorham contractor; applies for $800K in bike/pedestrian grants

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city on Monday awarded a $3.12 million contract  for sewer separation, road and sidewalk, and utilities upgrades in Knightville. 

The project, expected to start in April and last about seven months, will be handled by Shaw Brothers of Gorham. The Portland Water District will pay  more than $836,000 for work done to its water mains, leaving the city to pick up the rest of the tab – about $2.7 million.

The project will include reconstruction of areas of Cottage Road, Ocean Avenue, F Street and E Street. Electric, gas and water utility companies will upgrade or replace their lines, sidewalks along Ocean Street north of the Legion Square traffic circle on E Street will be widened, and new landscaping, lighting and wheelchair-accessible ramps will be installed.

The sewer separation project will include the removal of 33 catch basins from the sewer, and storm-water hookups will be provided to the businesses on Ocean Street.

Yet to be determined, though, is how the work will affect the parking configuration on Ocean Street from E to C streets, what’s commonly known as “The Smaha’s Block.”

“At this point, we’re still in holding pattern,” City Manager Jim Gailey said. “Staff learned no more than what we knew going into last week’s meeting. … We’re six or seven months away from having to stripe anything. It’s going to be another workshop to see where the council wants to go.”

The City Council is considering two parking scenarios: One, supported by many businesses in Knightville, to reduce the two-block stretch of Ocean street to one lane of one-way traffic in order to preserve coveted angled parking.

The other plan, supported by residents, would preserve two lanes of traffic while limiting parking to parallel spots on Ocean Street.

Mayor Patti Smith commended the staff in various city departments for working together to get so much done during one construction season. Departments of public works, transportation, parks and recreation, and water resource protection are all involved in the project. 

The project, and resulting traffic backups, “will require a lot of patience,” Smith said. “It’s a long-term project, but as my mom would say, just keep your eyes on the prize. Try to remember the vision of a beautiful landscape.”

Bike/pedestrian projects

The City Council on Monday also approved an application for grants to fund more than $800,000 worth of projects to support bicycle and pedestrian access in the city. 

Gailey said the projected cost to the city will be about $35,000. The five projects are:

• A coordinated signal and pedestrian traffic controller at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Ocean Street.

• Extension of a multi-use bike/pedestrian trail from Veterans Memorial Bridge to Cash Corner, including bike lanes.

• New traffic signals and a pedestrian traffic controller at the intersection of Mussey Street and Broadway.

• A new traffic controller at Broadway and Anthoine Street, which the city hopes will address traffic jams near the Casco Bay Bridge.

• And the addition of bike racks at 15 municipal buildings, 23 parks, three schools and two activity centers. 

The grants will be awarded through the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System. If South Portland wins one or more grants, disbursement of funds could come as early as autumn of this year. 

“I can guarantee you we won’t get all those grants,” Tex Haeuser, the city’s planning and development director, said. “But we’re hoping for some, one or two. We think they’re fairly competitive.”

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.