Thursday, December 5, 2013
PORTLAND – Changing High and State streets into two-way roads might be easier than first expected, according to the city's traffic engineer.
Traffic volumes are down -- in some cases by nearly a quarter -- from levels observed more than a decade ago on the heavily traveled commuter route connecting South Portland and Cape Elizabeth to Portland and Interstate 295, according to traffic engineer Tom Errico.
Also, it would be relatively easy for the city to work with the Maine Department of Transportation to redirect Route 77 from State and High streets to the Fore River Parkway, which could further reduce traffic, Errico said.
The City Council's Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee on Wednesday received a brief update about traffic counts that were conducted last week.
Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky said the city is still collecting and analyzing data from the state DOT. The committee is expected to take up the proposal again in September.
"We still have some work to do," Bobinsky said.
Errico said the traffic figures collected during evening peak hours -- generally from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- were lower than those observed in 2000.
Traffic was measured along five blocks of State and High. Only one stretch -- on State Street from Park Avenue to Cumberland Avenue -- saw an increase in traffic. In 2000, 1,045 vehicles traveled that stretch compared with 1,132 counted last week.
But every other portion of those roads saw a reduction, with the biggest decreases observed on High Street. The Danforth Street to York Street stretch decreased 23 percent, from 1,254 vehicles to 966, and Park Avenue to Cumberland Avenue dropped 18.4 percent, from 1,406 vehicles to 1,147.
"I need to dig into this a little more to understand why" traffic dropped, Errico said.
Errico also presented crash data for the first time. Accident rates at each intersection exceeded the state average.
The most accident-prone areas from 2009 to 2011 were near Park Avenue. At High Street and Park Avenue, 45 crashes were reported, and 31 crashes were reported at the State Street and Park Avenue intersection.
Several people who live in the Parkside neighborhood said they support converting the one-way roads to two-way roads, saying it would make the neighborhood safer while unifying the city.
"(High Street) divides the city," said Doug Sneed, who lives at the corner of Grant and High. Sneed said he has seen five pedestrians struck by cars at that intersection. "This would be one of the best ways to resolve (that problem)."
Former Planning Board member Michael Patterson, who sits on the Parkside Neighborhood Association board of directors, said the city could further reduce traffic along High and State by redirecting vehicles traveling to and from South Portland to the Fore River Parkway.
One way to do that would be to reassign Route 77 from High and State to Fore River Parkway, which Errico said would be a "straightforward process that could be accomplished relatively easily."
Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: