PORTLAND – A pedestrian and bicycle path connecting the popular Back Cove Trail with Portland’s Bayside neighborhood will be built this fall.

The plan, presented Wednesday night by state and city officials during a hearing at Merrill Auditorium, was applauded by Bayside residents, who said it’s long overdue.

Construction of the paved link, which will allow pedestrians and bicyclists to pass under Interstate 295 before getting on the Back Cove Trail, is expected to start in October.

The proposal also calls for marked pedestrian crossings on Marginal Way and at the spot where the Exit 7 northbound off ramp from I-295 connects with Franklin Street.

The new trail link, at least in concept, will allow a person walking on the Bayside Trail, or from neighborhoods such as Bayside or Munjoy Hill, to cross over the congested intersection to Back Cove.

Residents say it will provide a much-needed connection for walkers and riders who want access from the city’s eastern peninsula neighborhoods to destinations such as the Hannaford supermarket on Forest Avenue or the University of Southern Maine.

“I’m overjoyed to just be here at this meeting,” said Alex Landry, a Bayside resident. “We’ve worked many years toward making this happen.”

Two years ago, some residents questioned why the Maine Department of Transportation, which was widening the northbound and southbound off-ramps of Exit 7, didn’t account for the Back Cove trail connector in its funding plan.

State officials said they could not design such a link without first knowing whether pedestrian crossings on Marginal Way would force traffic to back up onto the interstate, creating a traffic hazard.

A traffic analysis done in April concluded that the connection will not have such an effect, Steve Landry, the state’s assistant traffic engineer, said Wednesday night.

Landry said that, except for a 20 percent contribution by the city, the state will fund the $195,000 project.

Earlier this week, the City Council approved spending $39,000, its share of the project.

Landry said the project will include a paved path, from under the overpass to the Back Cove Trail, which is stone dust. A lighting system will be installed under the overpass for people who use the path after dark.

A 4-foot-tall chain link fence will be behind an existing guardrail, adding protection from the traffic using the southbound off-ramp.

At the end of the meeting, an overwhelming majority of the audience raised their hands in support of the trail design. Landry said the plan still needs minor adjustments before construction can start.

“I think this is a great example of Portland’s voice being heard,” said Markos Miller, who chairs the Franklin Street Redesign Study Committee. “Two years ago, we weren’t having this conversation with the state.”

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

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