Year-long rebuilding of Woodfords Corner corridor begins this week in Portland

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PORTLAND — Reconstruction of Woodfords Corner has been a long time coming.

And it will take a long time to get through.

The Woodford’s Corner Revitalization Project began Monday. The $5.65 million project will repave Forest Avenue from Arlington to Concord streets, and include replacement of sewer and gas lines, storm drains, traffic signals and railroad crossing gates.

“It will be getting congested, there will be impacts,” Rich Crawford, assistant director of project development for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Aug. 10 about the three-phase project expected to last through summer 2018, with a winter hiatus thrown in.

The city share of the work is $1.38 million. Westbrook-based Shaw Brothers Construction is the project contractor.

With an average of 27,000 vehicles passing through the area daily, city and state officials said improving traffic flow is a key. Work will be done at night as much as possible, and Crawford said Forest Avenue inbound and outbound lanes will always be open weekdays from 7-9 a.m. and 3:30-6 p.m., respectively.

The project begins with utility work on the south side of Woodford Street, according to a DOT press release. Utility work north of Woodfords Corner follows that, before the hiatus that is expected to begin in late November.

Any uncompleted utility work will be finished in April 2018, before crews begin road resurfacing from Arlington to Concord streets. To provide two outbound travel lanes, parking will be eliminated along Forest Avenue between Woodford Street and Vannah Avenue.

The project goes beyond resurfacing to include improved access for pedestrians and bicyclists. Curb areas at intersections will be expanded to reduce the length of crosswalks and shared bike lanes will be added on Forest Avenue.

South of the confluence of Forest and Deering avenues and Woodford Street, two inbound lanes on Forest Avenue will remain, but the surface area will be narrowed to accommodate a left turn lane outbound and the shared inbound lane. The inbound lane widths will not change, Crawford said.

City and state officials are emphasizing outreach to keep the public informed of work progress.

The state has set up a website on the work at http://bit.ly/2fyoxOc. The city has also posted project details at http://bit.ly/2vXiBEL.

Acknowledging the need to improve traffic flow, city Public Works Director Chris Branch and Planning Director Jeff Levine also said the project is intended to restore a neighborhood feel and sense of place to the area.

The work is part of the wider template of the Transforming Forest Avenue plan adopted by the City Council in 2012. While expanding and improving sidewalks and adding amenities that include new benches, the city will also add public art outside the Oddfellow’s Hall at Forest Avenue and Woodford Street.

By eliminating the right-turn “slip lane” from Forest Avenue to Woodford Street, a new plaza can be constructed. It will feature a sculpted lamp post commissioned for $20,000 by the city’s Public Art Committee and created by Aaron Stephan. The committee has also set aside $5,000 for the art installation.

Improvements to the railroad grade crossing include new crossing gates and a traffic signal for the inbound lanes and Concord Street and Forest Avenue that will be activated when a train is approaching.

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

Traffic moves along Forest Avenue at Woodfords Corner in Portland, where work began Monday, Aug. 14, on a more than $5.6 million project to revitalize the traffic corridor.

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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.