Portland Trails is leading a demonstration project on the busy intersection of Gorham’s Corner where Center, Fore, Pleasant and York streets meet in front of the John Ford statue. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Gorham’s Corner, the five-way intersection in downtown Portland bound by Center, Fore, Pleasant and York streets, is getting a makeover, at least temporarily.

It’s an unusual spot, and often difficult for pedestrians to navigate without many crosswalks, and cars coming from so many directions.

The pedestrian-friendly changes include two new crosswalks across Pleasant Street and York Street, turning the traffic signal into a five-way stop, and painting a series of murals on the expanded pedestrian areas. The temporary measures are led by the nonprofit Portland Trails, along with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Ransom Consulting LLC, Toole Design, Portland Downtown and the city of Portland, and were paid for with private donations.

It’s been in the works for five years, as pedestrian safety and accessibility at that intersection have always been an issue, said Bailey O’Brien, communications & events coordinator at Portland Trails.

Of all the intersections in Portland, Gorham’s Corner has received the most complaints from pedestrians by far, said Jeremiah Bartlett, the city’s transportation systems engineer.

The temporary aspect of the project allows Portland Trails and the city to see how these changes affect pedestrians and drivers without spending city funds, he said.


The two biggest problems that the groups wanted to address were cars speeding, and pedestrians not being able to safely cross all parts of the intersection.

The current traffic light has been switched to a flashing red light, requiring drivers to stop and yield to anyone walking across the street – aided by the new crosswalks on the west side of the intersection near the John Ford statue.

Sitting just beyond Ford’s feet is a new mural that reads “Smile, you’re in Portland,” painted by local artist Jill Perry at Pamplemousse Studio.

The mural, painted on the ground, extends the pedestrian area. Perry also painted several smaller murals on the four other corners that help reserve some of the roadway for pedestrian space, marked off with traffic cones for extra protection. There is also a new ramp connecting the sidewalk to the street, making the intersection more ADA-accessible.

“Any visual element that can draw attention to the environment indicates to drivers and everybody that there’s something happening, that they need to pay attention,” said Jaime Parker, trails & active transportation manager of Portland Trails. “It’s really all about sharing the space.”

In taking away some of the road space, however, it becomes a little more difficult to turn right off Pleasant Street onto York Street. Bartlett said that has been the main complaint the city has received so far.


Traffic was quiet Wednesday afternoon, but drivers seemed to adjust to the new changes and drive through the intersection without any trouble.

However negative or positive the feedback is, Bartlett said, it’s important to decide where this project will go. The temporary changes will be gone around October, at least before the first snowfall.

At that point, the city and Portland Trails will sit down and assess the feedback to figure out the next steps. Bartlett said if something were to come out of this, it probably would not be immediate, as the city currently has no money set aside for a project like this.

Even if the city decides to make permanent changes, Parker said, he doubts it will look exactly like this current test.

Still, even the ability to assess city transportation issues first, without spending city dollars and making permanent changes, is something to celebrate.

We’re sort of seeing this evolution in the world of transportation, using temporary, low-cost strategies. It’s a good way to be flexible,” Bartlett said. 

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