PORTLAND, Maine — With a bump here, an island there and two mini-traffic circles, the city hopes to make motorists slow down in the Libbytown and Rosemont neighborhoods between Congress Street and Brighton Avenue.
At a June 19 meeting at the Clarion Hotel on Congress Street, the public got a view of the $335,000 project to calm traffic on side roads from Douglass to Bradley streets. The work is slated to begin next month and be finished by early fall.
“We appreciate the opportunity to look at this comprehensively,” city Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky said Monday. “The public will know these are neighborhood streets.”
On Monday, Craigie Street resident Bernie Cohen remained skeptical that the city could resolve the problem of drivers speeding through his neighborhood to avoid congestion on Congress Street and Stevens and Brighton avenues.
“I’m not sure people who speed are going to be deterred,” he said, adding that narrowing streets by extending curbs or adding traffic islands could backfire in the winter because of accumulated snow.
City Councilor Ed Suslovic and Bobinsky said speeding traffic has been a constituent complaint for about a decade, one that has been only partially addressed in the past.
“They are all long, straight streets, and there is an incomplete sidewalk network in the neighborhood,” Suslovic said June 18.
The construction bid from Gorham-based Shaw Brothers came in at $275,000, Bobinsky said. The remainder of the costs include engineering and consultant work, with some studies done by Gray-based Gorrill-Palmer Consultants.
The work is funded as part of $3.8 million in infrastructure improvements connected to development of the $110 million Forefront at Thompson’s Point.
The entire infrastructure funding includes $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency, $525,000 in Maine Department of Transportation funding, $90,000 in federal transportation funds and $1.68 million from Forefront developer Chris Thompson.
“We appreciated [Thompson's] recognition there could be an impact in the neighborhood,” Bobinsky said.
Work to slow traffic on the nine cross streets in the Libbytown and Rosemont neighborhoods has been done in piecemeal fashion by raising surfaces on Bolton Street and Massachusetts Avenue, and with three- and four-way stop signs where Elizabeth Road intersects the cross streets.
“What we are trying to do is really get people to travel the posted speed limit or in some cases going under that,” Bobinsky said about installing traffic islands in the center of streets, raising more surfaces, pinching lanes by about two feet in some spots, and converting two Elizabeth Road intersections into mini-traffic circles.
The raised surfaces on Massachusetts Avenue also will be replaced as the city tries a variety of traffic calming methods, some already used in other areas of Portland. The bumps to slow traffic will not be as “severe” as those used on Stevens Avenue in the stretch between Deering and Catherine McAuley high schools, Bobinsky said.
“We are trying to create friction that causes greater awareness by drivers to be conscious it is a neighborhood with children, walkers and bicyclists,” he said.
Bobinsky said the city began gathering input on solutions from neighbors about seven months ago.
“Our objective was to respond to the neighborhood’s collective concerns,” he said.
As she tended her gardens outside her Edwards Street home near the corner of Congress Street, Nancy Foster said she welcomes the project.
“[The speeders] are the rudest group anywhere around when it is busy,” she said.