An artist’s rendering shows the proposed Roux Institute campus at the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory in East Deering. Rendering by CambridgeSeven

The Portland Planning Board discussed plans to reduce potential transportation problems associated with the new Roux Institute graduate school campus during a workshop Tuesday night.

The institute, part of Northeastern University, is envisioning a high-tech graduate school, business accelerator and training pipeline to boost Maine’s workforce and economy. When complete, the new campus is expected to host about 5,000 students in East Deering at the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory.

The project has sparked concerns about increased traffic in the area. A memo submitted by Zach Powell on behalf of the institute laid out transportation plans that include a new highway offramp providing direct access, installing bike lanes along Veranda Street, adding Greater Portland Metro stops and 581 parking spaces on campus, and a walking trail that would pass under Tukey’s Bridge and connect the campus to the Back Cove Trail.

The planning board discussed efforts to encourage sustainable transportation such as biking and public transit, but weighed those against the realistic traffic demands posed by a new graduate school campus in the neighborhood.

The public comment period was brief but those who spoke were mostly supportive.

Jim Ahearne, who works at Roux, said he commutes to campus via metro once a week and in the summer bikes there regularly from his home in Freeport.


“The efforts being made to incentivize bike and metro are working,” he said. “These aren’t just ideas on paper. These are actually frameworks that my colleagues and classmates are using to get to and from class.”

Others weren’t so sure that the proposed infrastructure would be enough to mitigate traffic problems.

Allison Brown, an East Deering resident, said her neighborhood already struggles with traffic that is more than the area’s infrastructure can handle. In a letter to the board ahead of the meeting, she called the biking, walking and public transit solutions proposed by Roux “inadequate.”

“Biking and walking may suffice seasonally, but the Metro has yet to prove itself as a reliable mode of citywide transportation,” she wrote. “I urge the planning board to adopt a more realistic assessment of the traffic implications of this development.”

The institute said it is surveying students to better understand how they travel to and from campus. A traffic study of the area is also being prepared.

The board will meet again to discuss the campus transportation plans at an as-yet-to-be-determined date.

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