PORTLAND — Lines are longer at stoplights and the speed of traffic hasn’t changed, but most Stroudwater residents believe the new traffic pattern on outer Congress Street should be made permanent — with a few tweaks.

Suggestions include extending the new center turn lane from Johnson Road to the Westgate Shopping Center, marking the mergers with better signs and adding delayed red lights to widen the gaps between vehicles.

Other than that, advocates at a public meeting Tuesday night urged the city to implement the changes.

“It is our opinion it is working, and it is working big time,” said Elizabeth Hoglund, president of the Stroudwater Village Association, which has advocated for the changes.

The meeting at the Italian Heritage Center on Westland Avenue drew about 30 people, most of whom live in the area. The forum — along with an online survey and data — will inform the city’s decision on whether the changes will be permanent, said City Councilor Edward Suslovic.

For about two weeks, the city has been testing new lane markings on outer Congress Street, which carries an average of 25,000 vehicles a day between downtown and the Portland International Jetport and South Portland.

The new lane markings reduce the two inbound lanes to one lane from Westbrook Street to Westland Avenue by adding a center turn-only lane. The travel lanes have been narrowed by a foot, and bike lanes have been added.

The changes were inspired by a 2007 plan to make outer Congress Street safer and more livable.

Stroudwater residents hoped that the changes would slow traffic, but city traffic engineer Tom Errico said that apparently hasn’t happened — at least based on observations made during the morning and evening commutes.

“The speed actually stayed the same,” Errico said. “That actually surprised me.”

Traffic was generally observed going 37 mph at Hobart Street and 34 mph at Waldo Street, Errico said.

Three speed zones are in the project areas, said Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky. It’s 40 mph near Rivers Edge Drive, 30 mph from Garrison Street to Frost Street and 35 mph from Frost Street to Stevens Avenue.

Lines at stoplights have increased, Errico said, while the inbound evening commute has increased by a minute and the inbound morning commute has increased by only 12 seconds.

Outbound commutes for the morning and evening increased by only “a few seconds” and 30 seconds, respectively, he said.

Errico said only one accident has been reported, but residents said they had seen at least two more.

Charlton Smith said he saw a three-car accident on his way to the forum. He said the accident happened because the inbound lanes merge into one lane in front of Rivers Edge Drive to allow a left-turn-only lane onto Westbrook Street.

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings


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