Over the last few weeks several editorial comments have addressed the in-town interstate link through Portland. Some people would abandon it altogether; others call for more study before changes are made – on-ramps and off-ramps, particularly where the Interstate 295 link intersects Franklin Street, pose safety problems.

The exit from and entrances to Interstate 295 from Franklin Street pose safety problems, but abandoning I-295, “the in-town interstate link through Portland,” is “a nonstarter,” Orlando E. Delogu writes. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, File

In my view, abandoning this in-town link is a nonstarter.

We’ve already invested tens of millions of dollars; it serves many who live in Portland and work elsewhere or who live elsewhere and work in Portland. I agree expanding on- and off-ramp lanes (where possible) makes sense; synchronizing traffic lights better would also improve safety and traffic flow.

I’d offer two additional steps that would vastly improve the safety and driving experience on this in-town interstate link through our city. First, all traffic using this roadway needs to be slowed down. Current speed limits are too high and consistently exceeded. Too many drivers on this portion of 295 think they are still on an interstate highway. The in-town character of this portion of the road is ignored.

Forty-five miles per hour is a more appropriate speed for an in-town interstate link. And this new speed limit needs to be stringently enforced. The non-enforcement of current speed limits on this roadway is a huge problem. It’s very unsafe. Moreover, it gives rise to a chilling (and off-putting) experience for both visitors to Portland and those who use this roadway on a daily basis. Slowing down vehicles – to the proposed limit – needs to begin well before Tukey’s Bridge for traffic approaching from the north; for traffic coming from the south, it should begin shortly after the Portland exit tollbooths.

Second, through-traffic 18-wheelers should be prohibited on this link through Portland. This can be done by making the prohibition widely known to these commercial vehicle owners and by appropriate signage (by the state and the Maine Turnpike Authority) positioned well before the Portland exit for traffic coming from the south and before the Falmouth cutoff to Interstate 95 for traffic coming from the north. Eighteen-wheelers originating in Portland or delivering to Portland and coastal towns immediately north of Portland (Falmouth and Yarmouth) would be permitted to use the link, but only at the proposed 45 mph speed limit.

If current state laws and regulations inhibit Portland’s ability to impose these proposed speed and vehicular limits on this section of I-295, Portland should press Augusta to change the law to enable these reasonable traffic-calming changes on this currently dangerous portion of 295 to be made.

In short, draconian steps (closing this roadway) are not needed. Common-sense changes along the lines suggested will enable us to continue to have the benefits of this in-town link without the risks and fears we currently face.

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