PORTLAND — The City Council has authorized the state to expedite its plan for a path to connect the Bayside neighborhood with the city’s most popular walking trail.

Councilors gave permission Monday night for City Manager Mark Rees to enter into an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation that will allow the state to build a shared-use path connecting Marginal Way with the Back Cove Trail.

The council’s consent was needed because the city’s share of the $195,000 project – $22,000 – was not budgeted. The money will most likely have to be taken from Rees’ contingency fund.

City officials said the accelerated construction plan means the path could be completed by the end of this year.

At a public meeting in August, Bayside residents said that if they could safely cross Marginal Way and connect to the Back Cove Trail, they would be able to walk safely to places such as the University of Southern Maine and the Hannaford supermarket on Forest Avenue.

“I commend the citizens that really pushed this issue. If it weren’t for these groups, this wouldn’t have been approved,” said City Councilor David Marshall.

Two years ago, some residents questioned why the Department of Transportation, which was widening the Interstate 295 off-ramps at Exit 7, didn’t account for the Back Cove trail connector in its funding plan.

State officials said they could not design the trail link without first knowing whether pedestrians could cross Marginal Way safely, and without forcing traffic to back up onto I-295. A subsequent traffic study showed that the connection could work.

Also Monday, the City Council:

• Approved changing the name of the Downtown Portland Corp. to the Portland Development Corp. Corporation members say the new name better reflects their mission, to stimulate economic development throughout the city, not just downtown.

• Gave preliminary approval to a rolling tabulation system for submitting petition signatures. The measure, if adopted at the council’s next meeting, will allow petitioners to submit petitions as they are gathered, rather than at one time. The city clerk would have 15 days to verify the signatures.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]

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