Stop Chicken Little: The Truth about Traffic Calming  in Portland, Maine



About This Site


Stevens Avenue

SAP Summary

Brighton Avenue

Capisic Street

Deering Oaks


Stop Signs

Maine Statutes



About This Site:

I started this site in 1998 after realizing that the things being said and done by the City in relation to the Stevens Avenue Traffic Calming Project  were not making sense  . The City Council  contradicted itself from one day to the next. Something seemed to be wrong.

Originally a supporter of the Stevens Project, I read the Phase I Pedestrian study and changed my mind. I discovered the whole thing was being driven by a small group, well connected to each other, and very well connected to the City Council.

Determining that I should know what I was talking about, I started doing research into traffic calming, talking to people at all levels of local, state, and  federal  government  and researchers overseas. The phone was and is a valuable tool (My phone bill for the month of November 1997 alone was $920 !).

The Internet has been a valuable tool. A massive amount of information from myriad traffic calming agencies and publications is available to the public, if only they would look. I've spent thousands of hours in the last 14 years researching traffic calming, and have learned a lot.

I think I can say that I know what I'm talking about. I don't know as much as a professional traffic engineer,  air quality specialist, or a mobility researcher, but I do have enough knowledge to be able to talk to those people about their professions. I can now figure out when somebody is trying to pull a fast one. Some things just don't add up.

What bothers  me immensely is the current milieu of "community involvement" - I think this kind of thing was started back in the feel-good 1970s, as a way for politicians to get local community populations  involved with supposedly making their roads better, to give them a stake in the process.

That has morphed into a situation where people with generally no knowledge of roadway engineering are telling the experts how to do their job. This is demoralizing to the professionals. The "civilians"  would never think about telling their surgeon how to operate on their kid, the pilot how to fly the plane , the captain how to run his cruise liner. But when it comes to roads, they are all of a sudden an expert, - Hey! - it's just pavement , right?

"Community involvement " now equates to : "Screwed up and politicized agendas from the beginning, reality be damned".

The whole process is now politically driven, with the politicians making sure that their minions in the public services are doing what they are told.

I've been told over and over by people at the Federal Highway Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Maine DOT, Maine DEP, Portland DPW , Portland Fire Dept.,  that "it's political".  Once it's "political" it doesn't have to make sense, and seldom does. This is how "earmarks" get made. We all agree earmarks are  wasteful, as long as it's somebody elses earmarks.

Special interests, friends, greed, power politics, favors, all come into play when a politician is making good for his friends.

Traffic calming is just that- political. I've asked people at FHWA "Well, if traffic calming is so useless (all it does is slow traffic down, making more pollution) , then why is it so popular?" :   It's popular because it's cheap. It's an easy way for a politician to make ignorant people happy. Oh, good.

The fact that calming has NO effect on safety, as study after study shows,  doesn't matter. It makes Joe and Josephina Schmoe happy because it allows them to control the system, give them something to point at and say "We did that!"  For about $1500 a politician can get a speed table built on the Schmoes street, and they all feel good. The pol gets reelected, and all is well. It's just too bad for the drivers, accident victims, people in need of a fast emergency response, and especially the environment.

I've tried to make this site as comprehensive as possible. The detail IS important. I've tried to make what is happening  in Portland clear so people can make up their own minds about it all. Learning about calming is good.

I still have lots to learn, you do too, and the City Council has to start.

It all leads to one conclusion : As traffic "amelioration" it makes people feel good, just like placebos do.  As a solution, it's crap.

It's time for the City Council to stop demeaning and mistreating their people, and leave the roads alone.

Brian Peterson
March 2014


My son Brian drew Chicken Little for me
when he was 10, to be helpful.  He's now 23,
flying around in helicopters in the Army.