CAPE ELIZABETH – A pedestrian pathway along Shore Road that has been envisioned for years will be reality by fall.

Town officials will open bids Thursday for construction of the Shore Road Path, a 2.2-mile stretch of asphalt from the town center to the entrance of Fort Williams Park. The town has worked for years to develop plans for the path, and had initially hoped it would be complete by midsummer.

The path will begin on the water side of Shore Road near the town center, then cross and run along the inland side of the road most of the way to the old entrance of Fort Williams, where it will re-cross the road to allow access to the park. Currently, walkers, joggers and cyclists use a narrow shoulder along the road.

Town officials say the 5-foot-wide path will make traveling along the two-lane road safer. It will be separated from the road by a grass strip, or in some sections by a guardrail. The path is not for use by bicyclists, but they would no longer have to maneuver around pedestrians and runners on the road’s shoulder.

The estimated $1 million project is funded by a $729,000 Maine Department of Transportation Quality Communities Program grant and $104,000 in donations raised by the local group Safe Access for Everyone. The balance is financed by multiple sources, including $60,000 from the Town Center sidewalk account, $40,000 from a Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System credit, $75,000 from the town’s Infrastructure Improvement Fund and $26,000 from a 2008 bond.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said he will unseal bids Thursday and expects work to begin soon after. Construction will be halted for several days to accommodate the annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K race on Aug. 4.

“I think people will really enjoy the appearance of the new pathway,” McGovern said. “People will see the view by walking, not just driving.”

The project was set in motion in 2007 when the Town Council established a Shore Road Path Committee to develop a conceptual plan for a path along Shore Road. Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said many people are “extremely excited” about the path, though there were residents who objected during the planning phase.

“Shore Road is a very scenic road and people love the way that road looks now,” she said. “There are concerns (that) adding a pedestrian facility will change the character of the road.”

To maintain that character, no stone walls will be removed and about 90 percent of trees will stay. The path stays in the town’s right-of-way.

“I think what we lose, there will be a long-term gain,” McGovern said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing folks enjoy it this fall.”

There are about 500 houses within a quarter-mile of the path. McGovern said there may be some delays during construction, but Shore Road will always be open to vehicles and pedestrians.

On Monday morning, Sonja Swanberg and her husband, Bob Johnson, pedaled their bicycles along Shore Road near Fort Williams. The South Portland couple rides or runs along the road five to six times each week. Swanberg said she looks forward to using the path for running and believes it will entice more people to walk and cycle along the road.

Swanberg said she has had a few close calls with passing cars, especially during the summer when visitors unfamiliar with the area flock to Fort Williams.

“It will be safer. This road gets busy on the weekends,” she said. “It would be great for families.”

Town Councilor Caitlin Jordan, a lifelong Cape Elizabeth resident, said she looks forward to having the path in place because it will improve safety in the area.

“It’s just so nerve-wracking when a car is coming in the other direction and there are runners on the road,” she said.

Jordan said that while growing up, she was never allowed to walk or ride her bike along the road because of safety concerns.

“Maybe I’ll finally be able to go for a bike ride down Shore Road,” she said.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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