The cities of South Portland and Portland are jointly seeking a traffic study grant of $225,000 from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, or PACTS.

The goal of the study is to create a transportation corridor between the two communities that would “support job growth and economic development,” as well as “improve safety, accessibility and mobility for all users,” according to the grant application.

If the traffic study were funded, there would also be a particular focus on making access easier for bicyclists, pedestrians and those who use public transportation, including the bus system in the two cities.

In addition, South Portland is also seeking a $104,000 grant to study transportation opportunities on Highland Avenue. The City Council approved both grant applications at its meeting on Monday, which includes a local match of $40,000.

There would be three prime focus areas for the studies, if PACTS approves the grant applications.

Those areas include Morrill’s Corner in Portland, a 23-acre, privately owned site near Bug Light Park in South Portland, and Highland Avenue, also in South Portland.

In terms of the Highland Avenue Corridor Project, the grant application said it would provide “a second east-west means of travel within the city of South Portland, which would greatly enhance mobility for area residents and response times for emergency vehicles traveling from one end of the city to the other.”

In a memo provided to the City Council prior to Monday’s meeting City Manager Jim Gailey said, “Highland Avenue has been the topic of discussion within the city of South Portland for quite a while due to its importance as an urban collector and distributor of traffic within the city and the adjacent communities of Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth.”

The traffic study would focus on how to make Highland Avenue eligible for more state and federal funding, as well as whether it could become a central element in a new cross-town connector roadway that could link I-95 with South Portland, Cape

Elizabeth, and Scarborough using Exit 45 of the Maine Turnpike, Gailey said.

He added, “Such a connection would provide improved interstate access for all three communities, as well as give the city of South Portland a second east-west transportation route,” which could “ease congestion on Broadway and decrease emergency response times for police and fire to access the western part of the city.”

If the traffic studies are approved, the consultant hired would identify and document land use and transportation issues and opportunities for the proposed transportation corridors, “based upon public input, field work, data collection and working with the project team staff,” according to the grant applications.

The analysis would also include consideration of the development of vacant parcels and the redevelopment potential of current parcels, and traffic solutions could include changes in roadway and intersection configuration, along with the number and type of travel and turn lanes.

As part of the study, opportunities for new connectivity and transportation facilities would also be reviewed, along with the chance to improve the quality of existing facilities and services.

Other improvements could include traffic signal upgrades and traffic light coordination; passenger ferry service from Bug Light to the Maine State Pier; ways to get off the Casco Bay Bridge in case of an emergency; and new or modified sidewalks, streetscapes and shared-use pathways.

The improvements could be paid for by expanding or creating new tax increment financing districts, focused on transit, in both cities, according to the grant applications, as well as with state and federal dollars.

Gailey said PACTS would make its final decision on which traffic studies it will fund in November.

In other action Monday the City Council held a workshop to discuss the job description for the post of city clerk. With City Clerk Susan Mooney leaving, South Portland must advertise for a new clerk.


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