The Cushing’s Point Transportation Study will encompass driving, walking, biking and public transit options in the busy Broadway corridor between Mill Creek and Bug Light Park. Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System

SOUTH PORTLAND — Anyone who has traveled along Broadway in South Portland at rush hour knows the popular corridor gets clogged with traffic, especially along the eastern end approaching Southern Maine Community College.

Now, a new traffic study conducted by the city and the Greater Portland Council of Goverments will help document the problem and help local and regional officials come up with a plan to improve traffic flow.

In addition to addressing the possibility of a passenger ferry system across Casco Bay with the city of Portland, the study, announced in October, will examine a segment of Broadway between Mill Creek and Cushing’s Point.

South Portland Planning and Development Director Milan Nevajda noted that Broadway is the principle east-west roadway connecting different parts of the city. A lack of alternate routes, he said, is one of the causes of the traffic.

“Broadway is the core of the community’s infrastructure,” he said.

There is potential for further development near the eastern part of Broadway, with a $300,000 federal grant over the summer expected to spur further development of the former Liberty Shipyard property near Bug Light Park. If that happens, Broadway’s traffic problems in the area will only get worse, said Andrew Clark, Greater Portland Council of Government’s regional transportation planner, and one of the study’s managers.

“The city of South Portland will experience some growth in the coming years, so the question is how to make that corridor as efficient as possible?” he said.

The $82,000 study is funded largely by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, a metropolitan planning organization. The city of South Portland is providing a $36,000 local match.

Clark said a number of studies in recent years have spoken to the problem, such as the 2018 Smart Corridor Study, which examined traffic issues along a 7-mile corridor connecting Portland and South Portland. According to the study, a sampling of traffic data collected over a 48-hour period in May 2017 on Broadway east of Sawyer Street showed an average count of 13,200 vehicles per day. At peak hours in the morning, the study showed as many as 890 vehicles per hour – and evening peak hours were even worse, with 1,090 vehicles per hour.

Clark also noted the governments’ group listed Broadway in general as a priority in a 2016 study, meaning the road will be more likely to get access to federal funding for improvements.

Nevajda said the study will likely produce the following recommended changes to improve or reduce traffic flow:

  • Better traffic lights/signaling
  • Bike infrastructure, including adding bike lanes and/or shared lanes for bikes
  • Sidewalk improvements, including curb extensions and sidewalk crossings
  • Transit/bus system improvement

Nevajda said the hard part isn’t knowing what to do, but where to do it. The easiest fix would be to widen Broadway and implement all the suggested improvements and benefits such as more turn lanes. The problem is, along much of the way there are too many buildings too close to the road.

“We don’t have opportunities at all in some areas for widening,” he said.

The study is expected to be finished by October 2021. A public meeting, scheduled for March 2021, will present preliminary findings and recommendations to the public.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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