PORTLAND – The city is moving forward with plans to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at one of its busiest intersections.

The City Council approved nearly $150,000 toward a traffic study and preliminary engineering for intersection improvements at Woodfords Corner. In 2010, that intersection had an average of 22,850 vehicles a day, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.

The project was one of more than $3 million in transportation-related projects approved by the council on Monday.

The council also approved plans for a roundabout at the six-way intersection at Brighton Avenue on the University of Southern Maine campus, and another roundabout at the corner of Deering Avenue and Bedford Street. It also appropriated funds to plan for an extension of the Bayside Trail to the Portland Transportation Center near Thompson’s Point.

Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky said in an interview it will probably take up to a year before the planning work for an improved Woodfords Corner is complete.

Recommendations for improving traffic flow and improving pedestrian and bicycle safety at Woodfords Corner were made in the “Transforming Forest Avenue” study. They include eliminating on-street parking on Forest Avenue from Woodford Street to Ocean Avenue during the evening rush hour to allow for another lane of traffic. That recommendation was opposed by area businesses, prompting an expression of concern from Councilor Cheryl Leeman.

The council has already approved the Woodfords Corner improvement plan with an amendment from Leeman that asked for a traffic study to support some of the recommendations, including the removal of parking during rush hour.

Bobinsky said the traffic study will be done as part of the preliminary engineering of the project. The council will get another opportunity to vote on the final plan before construction begins, he said.

Other recommendations include prohibiting left turns off Forest Avenue to Saunders Street and Vannah Avenue; building “bulb-outs” on the corners to slow traffic and make it safer for pedestrians; and adding shared bike lanes.

Meanwhile, the council also approved funding to draft plans to extend the Bayside Trail to the Portland Transportation Center. That span is considered the “missing link” to the city’s goal of building a multiuse path around the peninsula, according to a staff memo to the council.

The final route is still being determined, but it would run from Elm Street to Forest Avenue and Deering Oaks. From there, officials say it could run either along a dormant rail corridor next to Interstate 295 or along existing roadways through Libbytown.

The staff memo said a grant was originally awarded to the city in 2010, but it was delayed by the Maine Department of Transportation’s review of other trail projects. The DOT recently deemed the project worthy of funding.

Councilor David Marshall said in an interview Monday the easiest route would be to extend the Bayside Trail along Somerset Street to Forest Avenue and Deering Oaks. From there, it could run along the dormant rail line to Libbytown and the Portland Transportation Center.

Another option would be to use existing roadways, senior planner Rick Knowland said in an interview. That path would through Deering Oaks to Park Avenue and Marston and Frederic streets, where it would connect to the Fore River Parkway and ultimately the transportation center, he said

From there, the trail would connect with a new roadside path planned on West Commercial. Cyclists and pedestrians could then link up with the Eastern Prom Trail by using existing roads and sidewalks through the Old Port.

Bruce Hyman, the city’s bike and pedestrian program coordinator, said the construction costs for the roundabouts near USM are estimated to be $1.5 million. The project would also require the acquisition of about 8,300 square feet of private land, assessed at $33,000, from three landowners, he said.

The actual cost of acquiring the land could be more.

“It’s difficult at this point to know the acquisition costs,” Hyman said

 

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings