PORTLAND – Two of Portland’s busiest streets, near the city’s largest outdoor sports venue, are in line for improvements that inlcude new pavement, better-defined crosswalks, fewer travel lanes and lanes dedicated to bicyclists.
The Maine Department of Transportation told residents at an informational session Wednesday night that work on the $810,000 project is expected to begin after Labor Day and take about two months to complete.
Park Avenue, between Deering Avenue and St. John Street, and St. John Street, between Park Avenue and Congress Street, will be improved.
Daily traffic on Park Avenue totals more than 10,000 vehicles, while the average daily traffic on St. John Street tops 15,000.
Designers plan to start the work after Labor Day weekend to reduce the impact on Hadlock Field, where the Portland Sea Dogs play their home games. The Sea Dogs are scheduled to play their final home game on Sept. 3.
“We think these improvements are going to improve the safety of those streets and will get people to slow down,” said Tom Errico, a design consultant with T.Y. Lin Engineers, a Falmouth-based design firm. “This is really a safety project.”
Errico said the plans call for reducing the number of travel lanes on Park Avenue and St. John Street from four to three, which would allow for bicycle lanes on both sides.
Designers do not foresee eliminating any on-street parking.
New center turning lanes on both streets would be dedicated to left turns. New and better-defined pedestrian crosswalks also would be installed.
For now, the plan calls for a crosswalk on Park Avenue — extending from the curb at Gilman Street to Hadlock Field — to be embedded with images of baseball bats.
That proposal could change based on the response it received at Wednesday night’s session at King Middle School.
“I’m offended by the bats,” said Allan Higgins, who along with his wife, Donna, own rental properties on Park Avenue near Hadlock Field. “This is not a Sea Dogs neighborhood, it’s our neighborhood.”
Higgins also expressed concerns about the bicycle lanes. He said that adding bike lanes could lead to more bike-car collisions.
The stretch of St. John Street targeted for the makeover is heavily traveled by patrons of an Amato’s sandwich shop, a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shop and a McDonald’s restaurant.
George Lydick, who operates the McDonald’s, said he opposes reducing the travel lanes on St. John Street from four to three because drivers attempting to turn into one of the businesses would cause traffic to backup.
“I’m not sure St. John Street is a good street for adding bike lanes because there are so many cars making turns,” said John Brooking, who rode to the meeting on his bicycle.
Steve Landry, an engineer with the Department of Transportation, said no land will have to be taken for the project because all of the improvements will be made between the existing curbs.
Landry said the state will consider the comments made Wednesday night before drafting a final plan. The project should be completed before the end of this year.
“There isn’t an awful lot of (heavy construction) work here,” he said.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: