Spring Street ‘fixes’ to get unfixed in Portland

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PORTLAND — Recent changes in traffic flow and parking on Spring Street are under review and likely to change, City Manager Jon Jennings said Monday.

The most immediate change will occur at the intersection of High and Spring streets, where the left turn lane from Spring to High street will be restored, he said.

“We are not even close to having the final product,” Jennings said of the three-phase project that began this year with the removal of center medians extending from High to Temple streets and the reconfiguration of intersections along the stretch.

A left-turn lane on eastbound Spring Street at Temple was also removed, and “bump outs”– sidewalk extensions into intersections – were expanded.

Jennings also said the new mode of parking on eastbound Spring Street will be reviewed. Drivers are now required to back into diagonal spaces in two areas, one on either side of Center Street.

City Planning and Urban Development Director Jeff Levine said Monday the back-in requirement has been tried in other cities, including Somerville, Massachusetts, and planners have seen data indicating it may be a safer approach to parking.

It was tried with the knowledge that the lines could be repainted to allow head-in parking, as is already the arrangement in diagonal parking areas on westbound Spring Street.

“We have to look and see if backing in makes sense,” Jennings said.

The Spring and High street intersection was altered to remove the eastbound left turn lane from Spring to High street, while adding a second right hand turn lane from westbound Spring to High streets. The second right turn lane is partly intended to help traffic flow after events let out from the Cross Insurance Arena.

An end result was some drivers continuing straight on the westbound lane over the extended bump-out in front of the Little Tap House. Meanwhile, some eastbound drivers were confused by the lack of a left turn lane from Spring to High streets.

Jennings said the bump-out will be cut back, but is not sure what it will cost or who will pay, as the work was part of an $820,000 state Department of Transportation project.

The removal of center barriers more than 40 years old was accompanied by utility work, and came after a study on redeveloping the area for mixed use, which was accepted into the city’s comprehensive plan in 2013.

Redevelopment goals include reconnecting side streets cut off when Spring Street was converted to an arterial route and enticing developers to build on land now used for parking. The intent is to create a “complete street” to better accommodate commerce, pedestrians and bicyclists on Spring Street.

The study encompassed the area bounded by High, Free, Union, Fore and Pleasant streets. Combined cost estimates for the second and third phases are $2.8 million, and funding has not been secured.

With final paving work is not scheduled until the 2016 construction season, Jennings said there is still room to revise the plan.

“We need to look at all of these efforts to see what problems we are solving, and if there are problems,” he said.

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

Back-in parking on Spring Street led to this exhaust being clogged Nov. 27, and the space requirement will be reviewed by city officials.

An eliminated left turn lane from Spring to High Street will be restored, City Manager Jon Jennings said Monday.

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.