Maine DOT Leaves Portland Pedestrians Stranded

exit7_1.jpgPlans for a highway widening in Portland, Maine, make little room for pedestrians. (Photo: Rights of Way)

This morning on Streetsblog Network, Rights of Way, a blog in Portland, Maine, writes about how the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is trying to push through a highway-widening plan near the city’s scenic Back Cove.

Despite a City Council resolution calling for better pedestrian facilities in the area, and despite flat traffic levels, MDOT is promoting a multimillion-dollar road expansion that leaves scant accommodation for those on foot.

Rights of Way reports:

[The state]‘s construction drawings conspicuously omit any pedestrian safety measures in defiance of local elected officials and…new federal policies (not to mention basic common sense).

The plans would only build a short, 8-foot-wide sidewalk under the freeway overpasses themselves. This sidewalk wouldn’t be connected to the Back Cove Trail or the Marginal Way sidewalk. Quite the opposite: MDOT is actually going to spend a few thousand taxpayer dollars on not one but two chain-link fences to prevent anyone from using the sidewalk (at least until volunteers from the neighborhood "repair" the fences themselves).

This sidewalk would not have any lighting. It would be a narrow, dark alley squeezed next to speeding freeway traffic. Remember, they’re calling this a "safety improvement"

MDOT is also refusing to build any crosswalks between the Park and Ride lot and adjacent sidewalks on the other side of Franklin Street and Marginal Way.

I used to live in Portland, and this area is one of the city’s great missed opportunities, a place where the spectacular waterfront should be a focus of recreation, but where the highway has dominated for too long. The idea that the situation could get worse instead of better — at a time when so many municipalities are improving waterfront access and recognizing the destructive nature of waterfront roadways — is downright depressing.

The League of Young Voters is asking Mainers to call the governor and demand a change in the plans. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

More from around the network: Cyclelicious has a poll on whether reflective clothing should be mandatory for nighttime cyclists. Human Transit has a comprehensive post on cul-de-sacs and their impact on the number of miles people drive. And Seattle Transit Blog has a post on Mayor Mike McGinn’s new "Walk. Bike. Ride" campaign.