South Portland moves closer to Knightville traffic study

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Frustrated residents were placated Monday when the City Council agreed that a comprehensive traffic study is the best route toward resolving traffic and parking issues in Knightville.

Discord began two years ago, when angled parking and one-way northbound traffic was created on the section of Ocean Street between E and D streets after the completion of a nearly $3 million sidewalk improvement and sewer separation project.

The change has required drivers headed south on Ocean Street to drive west on D and east on E to access the portion of Ocean Street between D and E, or to get anywhere south of Legion Square. 

“We’re all going around and around and around,” D Street resident Melanie Wiker told the council at the Jan. 12 meeting. 

She argued that routing traffic down D Street contradicts the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which discourages the use of residential streets as routes for commuter traffic. 

Wiker is part of a committee of Knightville residents and business owners who were appointed by Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings last August, with the goal pinpointing and ultimately mitigating the issues.

The committee concluded its meetings in November. 

Jennings addressed the council at the Monday meeting with the panel’s list of requests. 

“Obviously the one-way is the primary issue,” Jennings said before listing secondary issues that the committee has either already addressed (installing a stop sign at the intersection of D and Ocean Streets, for example) or that are in need of being addressed.

Remaining concerns include updating GPS maps to avoid providing outdated traffic directions, particularly for large trucks, and directing Ocean Street business employees to park in a new public lot on Waterman Drive instead of on residential streets.

As a possible solution, particularly during the winter when snow banks additionally encroach on street parking, Jennings asked the council to allow a winter parking ban exemption, so residents could use the 32-space Waterman Drive lot overnight, until 7 a.m. 

Blanketing that list, Jennings spoke for the committee and requested a comprehensive traffic study in the neighborhood. 

“Part of our goal and responsibility is to try and envision the future … a traffic study (would) examine five to 10 years down the road,” he told the council.

Every councilor endorsed the proposal to some degree, and they agreed that it would probably be best to hire an outside firm to conduct the study.

“Studies are wonderful,” Councilor Maxine Beecher said, “(but) … a study may come up with a solution that some of you are not looking for.”

Councilor Patti Smith advised that the city be particular about the type of study it requests.

“One thing I’ve learned is what you count is what you get … an auto-focused study (will produce) an auto-focused solution,” which could be limiting for the community 10 years down the road, Smith said.

She requested that the study be “global in nature,” and executed “with the future in mind.”

An estimate of what the study might cost is not yet available. A study of this nature would qualify for about $10,000 of funding through the city’s Community Development Block Grant program, City Manager Jim Gailey said. 

Regardless, Councilor Claude Morgan said, “Whether we pay it out of pocket or we have help here with the funding, it is clearly to everybody’s benefit to put the data together.”

Mayor Linda Cohen added that “the best communities work best when the public is involved. … We have a responsibility to all of you to make sure that we provide you with what you need to keep it going in a positive way.” 

After the meeting, Wiker said that for the first time, she felt “hopeful.” 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Sidebar Elements

Looking west on D Street in South Portland on Wednesday, Jan. 14. Snowbanks and cars parked on both sides leave the street especially narrow.

An aerial view of part of South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood, with the red arrow indicating one-way northbound traffic on Ocean Street between E and D streets, and the blue arrows showing two-way traffic on D Street, E Street, and southbound Ocean Street between C and D streets. Some residents and business owners want the city to conduct a comprehensive traffic study of the area.

The South Portland City Council again heard complaints from residents on Monday, Jan. 12, about traffic and parking. Most have to do with the pattern created by the one-way block of Ocean Street between E and D streets.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.