The Portland City Council voted unanimously, with one member absent, Monday to approve an agreement to remake Woodfords Corner – a five-way intersection that is among the busiest in the city and is near a well-used rail line on Forest Avenue.

City officials said the project will help foster economic and residential development for an off-peninsula area that is a short bus ride to amenities downtown.

The project calls for widening Forest Avenue north of Ocean Avenue so it has two lanes of traffic in both directions. The plan also would benefit bicyclists and pedestrians by adding several so-called bump-outs that will narrow intersections to make it safer for pedestrians to cross.

A plaza also is planned in front of the Odd Fellows Hall, whose 80-foot-tall clock tower presides over the intersection. That would eliminate a right-turn-only lane onto Woodford Street for northbound traffic on Forest Avenue.

City Manager Jon Jennings noted the complexity of the project, which will get underway in the summer of 2017.

“It will be tremendously disruptive for this area,” Jennings warned.


The Maine Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting on March 30 at 6 p.m. at Woodfords Congregational Church’s Memorial Hall to discuss the plan in detail.

The project, originally scheduled for last year’s construction season, has been delayed because of the need for costly upgrades to the railroad crossing on Forest Avenue just north of Woodfords Corner. The larger project can move forward now that the city and the state have come up with a combination of public funding to pay for $500,000 in upgrades needed to preserve the so-called “quiet zone” so trains will not have to blow their horns going through the crossing.

The $2.6 million project is being paid for with federal, state and local money. Portland taxpayers will be paying 25 percent of the cost, or $640,000.

Several area businesses had expressed concerns about the elimination of parking between Woodford Street and Vannah Avenue. Transportation Systems Engineer Jeremiah Bartlett said the city is looking into ways to replace some of the parking on Vannah Avenue.

“We can replicate a number of the spaces,” Bartlett said. “I wouldn’t say it would be a one-to-one replacement.”

City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, who lives near the intersection, said he has been concerned about the loss of parking and whether the project would push more traffic through the neighborhood. Those concerns gave him pause about whether to support the project, he said.


“It sounds like there has been some good progress on parking,” said Mavodones, who voted in support.

Councilor David Brenerman voiced concerns about the addition of so-called bump-outs, which extend the curbs into the traffic lane to reduce crossing distances for pedestrians.

The city previously installed bump-outs on Spring Street, but had to reduce their size after a series of complaints and accidents.

Bartlett, however, noted that bump-outs would not extend much beyond the width of a parked car.

Although technically located in the Back Cove neighborhood, Woodfords Corner is essentially the vortex of four neighborhoods, including Oakdale, Deering Center and Rosemont. Those neighborhoods have some of the city’s highest-earning residents, but many are hesitant to walk from one neighborhood to another if it involves crossing four lanes of traffic on Forest Avenue.

Today, the combination of businesses – restaurants, antiques, international markets, barbershop, seafood store, theater company and roller derby store – give the area an eclectic feel.


Besides traffic congestion, Woodfords Corner is best known for Odd Fellows Hall, built in 1897. Its roughly clock tower looms over a five-way intersection traversed on average by more than 10,000 vehicles a day.

The city is looking to accentuate the historic building, which was once the municipal offices of the town of Deering before it was annexed by Portland in 1899, by building a plaza and adding street furniture.

Although passenger trains have taken a back seat to automobiles in the United States, rail service has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years, and the Amtrak Downeaster now carries passengers through Woodfords Corner on its way to Brunswick and back.

The additional train service, coupled with freight operations, however, has increased traffic congestion in the area and presented a challenge to both drivers and pedestrians.

In 2014, portions of Forest Avenue saw, on average, between 10,000 and 24,000 vehicle trips a day, according to traffic counts from the Maine DOT.

City Councilor Edward Suslovic said the project will help motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, businesses and residents. “It will improve the situation for everyone,” he said.

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau didn’t attend Monday’s meeting.

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