PORTLAND – At 100 feet, the crosswalk on Cutter Street leading to East End Beach is Portland’s longest, says Michael Bobinsky, director of the city’s Public Services Department.
But that distinction may be short-lived.
The city is expected to do work along the Eastern Promenade this summer to make pedestrians safer. The plan includes narrowing and realigning Cutter Street in an effort to slow traffic heading to the beach and boat launch.
The project, which will go before the city’s Historic Preservation Board on Wednesday, includes a drastic reduction in pavement at the intersection of Cutter Street and Eastern Promenade road. The 100-foot-wide expanse would be narrowed to about 40 feet, and a pulloff area for tour buses would be created.
Bobinsky said the project, projected to cost $100,000 and expected to begin after July 4, will be in the Maine Department of Transportation’s request for bids to repave a section of the Eastern Prom from Morning Street to Washington Avenue.
Few major accidents have been reported at that intersection, but the potential is there, Bobinsky said.
The Friends of the Eastern Promenade is welcoming the proposed changes. President Diane Davison said the current configuration makes Cutter Street seem like an-off ramp that doesn’t require drivers to slow down. “The traffic just moves way too fast,” she said.
Safety concerns were raised in the 2004 Eastern Promenade Master Plan, which called the intersection confusing. “Cutter Street appears to be an extension of promenade drive, not a separate intersection,” it said.
The project also would reduce the width of Eastern Promenade road, from 52 feet to 38 feet, near the bend by Fort Allen Park. Pavement on the inland side of Eastern Promenade road would be replaced with grass and curbing.
Davison said commercial vehicles traveling from the Old Port to the East End boat launch, where they load supplies and equipment on barges, is the biggest safety concern.
“(The trucks) really fly right through that intersection,” Davison said. “Narrowing that intersection will make it safer for all park users.”
The crosswalk reduction from 100 feet to 40 feet shouldn’t cause problems for recreational boaters who use the East End boat launch, Bobinsky said.
The project is related to restoration work planned for this spring at Fort Allen Park, which includes replacing the rotting wooden cannon carriages, repairing a wrought iron fence, sprucing up a bandstand and improving pathways to better incorporate three war memorials.
Narrowing the Cutter Street intersection will add green space next to the Jacob Cousins War Memorial, a bronze plaque on a boulder commemorating the city’s first Jewish soldier killed in World War I.
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: