South Portland council previews major Main Street makeover

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SOUTH PORTLAND — City Councilors on Monday got a sense of how work will flow through the city during reviews of two projects that will redirect the flow of storm water.

They were unable, meanwhile, to decide how to move forward on a possible consent agreement with a Stone Drive property owner who violated a city setback ordinance while renovating a home. The matter will be discussed again at a workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 4.

The most encompassing storm-water work, slated to begin next March, will reroute runoff from existing pipes in neighborhoods on both sides of Main Street, from Westbrook Street east to Mardale Avenue.

With design plans presented by Sebago Technics engineer Dan Riley 30 percent complete and cost estimates not yet tallied, the work will involve multiple city agencies, the Portland Water District, and draw from diverse sources of funding, while Main Street also undergoes a dramatic face-lift.

Riley described four stages of work, ending with a sewer separation project in the Pleasantdale area north of Broadway, along North Kelsey and Elm Streets.

The Thornton Heights and Pleasantdale projects will eclipse the 2012 work in Knightville, but they have the same intent: to divert storm water flow from the city treatment plant on Waterman Drive and prevent overflows in bad weather.

Riley said the Pleasantdale work will take considerable time because full street closures are not possible due to truck traffic in the neighborhood.

In Thornton Heights and Pleasantdale, the Portland Water District will also replace water mains.

Storm-water drainage will be improved in Thornton Heights with proposed detention ponds on Sunset Avenue and at a field outside Memorial Middle School. The project was developed after visits to more than 450 properties and studies of existing pipe lines made by cameras placed in the pipes.

Areas south of Main Street, descending to the edge of the Rigby Yards, will be in the first phase of the project. A second phase will address installations north of Main Street toward Wythburn Road, which was noted by Riley as a street with drainage issues even though a retention pond already exists at nearby Calvary Cemetery.

The third phase will convert Main Street to a “complete street” by narrowing vehicle lanes to 18 feet, reducing traffic to one lane beyond the Aspen/McLean street intersections, and adding bicycle lanes.

Sidewalks will also be widened and an esplanade added between them and the bicycle lanes. A center median with street lights will be added to Main Street from Southwell to Mardale avenues.

Work near the Cape Elizabeth boundary along Drew Road will be less dramatic, but an estimated $2.37 million project to divert storm water there is intended to reduce flow by 1,100 gallons per minute during peak flow times.

Storm and waster water is currently collected at a Portland Water District pump station on Ottawa Road, and eventually flows to the city treatment plant.

Chris Dwinal, a project manager with Wright-Pierce, said the five-year project will be done in two phases, with the cost possibly an even split between Cape Elizabeth and South Portland. A master plan for the work was approved by the Maine  Department of Environmental Protection in July.

He estimated future mitigation efforts would cost 50 percent to 100 percent more, while noting that adding the storm water lines will mean other lines and pump stations will not have to be enlarged or replaced. If the Ottawa Road pump station needs replacement, it would be at PWD’s expense.

The first phase requires an estimated $170,000 for design; funding could come from tax increment finance accounts and be placed in the city capital improvements budget.

Stone Drive

A consent agreement regarding setback violations at the 24 Stone Drive home owned by Robert Pratt will require some input from Cape Elizabeth officials, because the property sits on the border between the municipalities.

City Code Enforcement Officer Patricia Doucette is seeking the agreement and a possible fine because Pratt and his son-in-law, Bob McNally, deviated from a building permit application by rebuilding a section of the 84-year-old home they tore down after buying it earlier this year.

The rebuilt section sits on a side property line instead of being the required 6 feet back. It is also inside Cape Elizabeth, although the building permit was filed in South Portland.

Because councilors were uncertain what Cape Elizabeth officials might want to see as a remedy, they postponed discussions until Monday. At the same time, because the formerly vacant home is now almost completely renovated, they vowed quick action because Pratt and McNally are eager to put the home on the market.

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

Sidebar Elements

The concluding piece to pipeline additions and replacements in Thornton Heights will be the transformation of Main Street to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

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.