Sunday, December 8, 2013
PORTLAND – A 1.4-mile section of Baxter Boulevard will be closed to traffic for as long as eight months starting in November while the road is torn up and million-gallon tanks are installed underground to store wastewater.
The road closure won't affect the hundreds of people who walk, jog or ride bicycles each day on the Back Cove Trail along Baxter Boulevard.
But it will disrupt traffic. No vehicles will be allowed on the stretch of the boulevard between Vannah Avenue and Bates Street during the construction period.
"This is a big project for us," said Bradley Roland, a city engineer who spoke Wednesday night at an informational meeting with residents at Ocean Avenue Elementary School. "In fact, it's one of the biggest projects public works has ever done."
The $10 million project, funded entirely from sewer user fees, must be done to comply with federal environmental regulations, Roland said.
Water that runs off Portland's streets during prolonged rainstorms now is routed into sewer lines. If the flow gets too heavy, the system allows untreated wastewater to flow into areas such as Back Cove.
The new system on Baxter Boulevard will store wastewater before discharging it to the city's treatment plant near the East End.
Roland said it will be necessary to close the boulevard so the project's contractor -- bids will be solicited in October -- can install two underground concrete boxes. Each box will have the capacity to store 1 million gallons of combined sewage and stormwater.
The so-called storage conduits, which will be as long as 1,700 feet, are a less expensive way to handle stormwater and sewage overflow than installing separate stormwater and sewage pipes.
One tank will be about 15 feet under Baxter Boulevard and the other will be installed under the section of Payson Park closest to the Seaside Nursing Home.
"We have a saying ... that we bury our best work," Roland said.
Several more storage tank projects are planned elsewhere in the city, at an estimated cost of $170 million over 15 years.
About 70 people attended Wednesday's meeting. Most were residents of side streets between Baxter Boulevard, Forest Avenue and Ocean Avenue. They expressed concerns about the road closure and how it could force drivers into their neighborhoods.
City officials said they will rely on police enforcement and road signs to keep traffic moving in that part of the city.
"We recognize that once this goes into place, everyone will be looking for a faster route," Roland said.
Mike Bobinsky, Portland's director of public services, said the city will do everything it can to ensure that traffic from major arterials such as Forest Avenue won't turn into those neighborhoods.
"We held this meeting to make sure that you understood the science behind the project," Bobinsky said, but another meeting may be needed to address residents' concerns about traffic.
Once the project is completed, the torn-up section of Baxter Boulevard will be repaved, most likely in April or May.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: