SOUTH PORTLAND — The city will weigh the feasibility and cost of constructing a pedestrian bridge over the intersection of the Casco Bay Bridge, Waterman Drive and Broadway.
Drafting of the Mill Creek Master Plan, which aims to resuscitate the neighborhood aesthetically and environmentally, and to reconfigure zoning to attract new business, reopened the case for a walkway that would make it easier for pedestrians and bicycle riders to safely cross.
Research conducted up to this point on extending the Greenbelt Walkway over one of the busiest intersections in the city has been minimal, Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said, although preliminary sketches of the project have been completed.
The next immediate steps include hiring a graphic designer and engineering firm to get a more accurate idea of what the project could look like and how much it may cost.
At first glance, there were two major aspects about the project that “we were worried about,” and need to be avoided, Haeuser said: overhead power lines and underground pipelines.
Consultations with a graphic designer and engineering firm could happen as early as this summer, funded with $12,000 from the city’s Downtown Tax Increment Financing district’s funds, Haeuser said.
Funding for a project of this size can only be estimated at this point, he said.
An existing ramp and stairway connecting the bridge with Thomas Knight Park cost approximately $1.2 million in the mid 1990s, but the scope of that project was considerably smaller.
Haeuser said the city has consulted Figg Bridge Cos., which constructed the Sagadahoc Bridge in Bath, and has been hired to build the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth, N.H., with Kittery. For South Portland’s purposes, prices were decidedly too high, Haeuser said.
City Manager Jim Gailey said the need for more access at the intersection is there because Maine Department of Transportation rules do not allow the city to give pedestrians and bicyclists priority through the intersection.
Regardless, “the bridge comes at a cost and staff will need to look for outside funds to offset the reliance of city money for the entire project,” Gailey said.
A rendition of what a pedestrian walkway could look like above the busy intersection of Casco Bay Bridge, Broadway and Waterman Drive.