WESTBROOK – Westbrook city councilors have unanimously approved the first reading of a proposal to hire Stantec Consulting Service for $72,000 to design improvements to the Bridge Street bridge area, based on comments made during a public hearing held on Jan. 30.

Work on a so-called “multi-use trail bridge” will piggyback onto the Department of Transportation’s Bridge Street bridge replacement project, which will move the span upstream toward the Bridge Street spur and leave the trusses of the old crossing to build the walkway.

Stantec Consulting is working with the state on the vehicular span project. City Planner Molly Just said hiring the firm for the city side of the project – the multi-use trail bridge and improvements to the downtown layout – will make the two projects coincide and save the city money.

During the public hearing last week, Just asked the crowd of nearly 50 residents and businesses owners if they wanted the pedestrian bridge, and most all agreed.

“We’re here tonight to take advantage of an opportunity. What do you want to see added to the goals of the project?” Just asked the crowd.

Many residents discussed the importance of beautifying the downtown and making it more pedestrian friendly by adding flowers and benches. Other suggestions included keeping the large, shade-providing trees and widely used crosswalks, and adding bike racks.

Two big concerns also came out of the public hearing: parking and traffic issues.

“We have found the city has a surplus of parking. People need to be willing to walk further,” Just said during the City Council meeting on Monday, but, she said, the Edwards building parking lot would need to be replaced when the new bridge was built.

The vehicular bridge would be built upstream, next to the Sacarrappa Park where the Bridge Street spur is now. Bridge Street will then become a narrower road leading to the multi-use trail bridge across the Presumpscot River. The only way out of the former Bridge Street will be through the parking lot behind the Portland Pie building and out into the new bridge traffic, which could make it difficult to navigate during busy business hours.

James Tranchemontagne, owner of the nearby Frog and Turtle restaurant, said at the public hearing that he was concerned with traffic patterns and how the new proposed lot would affect parking. He described a typical Friday afternoon scenario when deliveries were being dropped off for his restaurant, Portland Pie and other businesses in the area.

“The parking lot [the new proposed Edwards lot] has only one entrance and exit. I think a parking lot needs at least two entrances and two exits. I have concerns over trucks parking out there with the smaller road,” Tranchemontagne said.

Because of the bridge relocation, Main Street will see changes, as well, including moving the light signal at Bridge Street up a block to the Bridge Street spur area and eliminating the right-hand turning lane on Main Street, thus allowing for more parallel parking on Main Street.

Stantec officials said they were also looking at expanding the sidewalks on Bridge Street, which could mean restaurants would offer outdoor seating, a potentially large draw.

According to Stantec’s Tom Emery, “piggy backing” the pedestrian bridge onto the state project will save the city money and the businesses will only have to deal with construction in the area once. Emery also said the new vehicular crossing will not have sidewalks and the cost savings will be used toward the pedestrian span.

At the earliest, the state project would begin at the end of this year or beginning of 2014.

City councilors will vote in a second reading on the proposed Stantec bid during an upcoming meeting before the engineering firm can begin work on the new downtown designs.

This overview of Westbrook’s downtown, presented by Stantec Consulting Service during the Jan. 30 public meeting, shows the location of the new Bridge Street vehicular bridge and the multi-use trail bridge. Courtesy image

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: