PORTLAND – It most likely will be 2012 before a pathway can be built allowing pedestrians to reach the Back Cove trail from the intersection of Franklin Street and Marginal Way.

But the trail link that Bayside residents have been clamoring for may not happen.

State officials say they need to monitor pedestrian and automobile traffic at the busy intersection, which connects the city to Interstate 295, before installing a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross it.

If state and city engineers agree that the pedestrian connection is feasible, and if funding is available, the connection — which would be near the new Bayside Trail — could be ready in the spring of 2012.

“I know it sounds frustrating and that it seems like a very long time, but we need to make sure everyone is safe. That is our job,” said Kat Beaudoin, the Maine Department of Transportation’s chief of planning.

The news about the Back Cove trail connection came Wednesday night during a presentation by the state, the city and Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System on their plans to revitalize the Franklin Street corridor.

Transportation officials used the meeting at the East End Community School to cover all components of the project, which includes widening the northbound and southbound off-ramps of Exit 7 — a phase that is under way — redesigning Franklin Street, and connecting the Back Cove trail to Marginal Way.

“This is a landmark moment,” said Carol Morris, who moderated the meeting for the MDOT. Morris said that after two years of evaluation, the state, city and PACTS are ready to seek bids for a Franklin Street feasibility study.

The study, which will take 18 months and could start as soon as September, will identify the best option for improving the Franklin Street corridor.

There are three options under consideration: a multi-way boulevard, an urban street and an urban parkway. Each plan contains different design elements.

The urban parkway, for instance, calls for a sidewalk running the length of the corridor, increasing the size of Lincoln Park, and provisions for a street car or light rail system.

“This is the heart of the economy for the region,” said Carl Eppich, a transportation planner with PACTS. “This study will have a lot of implications for the region.”

About 50 people attended the meeting, including Karen Elliot of Smith Street, who voiced disappointment after looking at the preliminary design proposals.

“I didn’t see anything on those maps that looks good to me,” said Elliot, who is concerned that the landscape will be overwhelmed by large buildings.

Christian MilNeil said the project is a way to reconnect the Bayside neighborhood.

“We have a lot of high hopes,” said MilNeil, who added that economic development will drive the improvements to Franklin Street.

MilNeil and others questioned why the Back Cove trail connection could not be constructed while the state is widening the Exit 7 ramps, but state officials say they need to see how a new traffic light — which will be installed at the end of the Exit 7 northbound ramp — impacts traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]