Gordon Contracting expected to finish up work outside the Portland Museum of Art by the end of the day Thursday and reopen the part of High Street that has been closed. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Crews reopened all lanes of traffic on High Street on Thursday night and now will pause work on the project at Congress Square for the next several months to avoid winter weather.

A rendering of the planned redesign of Congress Square, which aims to improve sidewalks, landscaping and safety for pedestrians and motorists and will feature new public art. Rendering courtesy of WRT Planning + Design

Construction on the first phase of the $7.2 million redesign of one of the city’s busiest intersections, which is flanked by the Portland Museum of Art and Congress Square Park, is expected to pick up again in the spring.

The project is significantly behind schedule, but acting Public Works Director Mike Murray said it doesn’t make sense to try and continue through the winter. A city ordinance prohibits excavations between Nov. 15 and April 15, except in emergency cases, Murray said.

“Winter work is inherently slow to begin with and we haven’t had any real winter weather yet,” he said. “We don’t want to entertain additional travel impacts for people through the winter months, both motor vehicle and pedestrian.”

Workers with Gordon Contracting started to reopen the road shortly after 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Free Street will also remain open.

“The intent was to finish up all of the work (Thursday) and get all the fencing down (Thursday) in anticipation of the bad weather tomorrow,” Murray said.


The next part of the project is expected to move construction to the corner at Congress Square Park, but Murray said the city is still finalizing plans to finish the rest of the first phase.

He said it is too early to say what the traffic impacts will be.

The work on the corner outside the Portland Museum of Art was just the first sub-phase within Phase A, which is focused on improving safety, accessibility and traffic flow, and involves reconfiguring the intersection and sidewalks at Congress and High streets, new traffic signals, lighting and landscaping.

Traffic backs up in a single lane on High Street in Portland. Gordon Contracting finished up work by the end of the day Thursday and began to reopen the road around 7:30 p.m. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Phase A was originally expected to be substantially complete by Nov. 15 with the exception of final paving and planting in the spring of 2023. Murray said he did not have an estimate Thursday on when Phase A might be complete. Phase B will include a complete overhaul of Congress Square Park, as well as the entry area by the Portland Museum of Art. The entire project was originally estimated to be complete by 2024.

The project has run into several delays since work started last April, including the discovery in May of two underground utility vaults that had been paved over years ago and didn’t appear on the project’s plans, unexpected ledge beneath the site that made it difficult for subcontractors to complete wiring and foundation work, and damage that occurred to another utility vault in August that hadn’t been marked during the Dig Safe process.

Murray said the delays have not added to the cost of the project to date.

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