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



Stevens Avenue

Brighton Avenue

Capisic Street


Deering Oaks


Peninsula Traffic Study

MDOT ?????

Chapter 9

Rose Garden Myth

 Myth, Reality

Principles / Objectives


Deering Oaks / State St.

State/High 2 Way

The Deering Oaks Reconstruction Plan S-2 :

March 17th, 2005
 4 - 6 pm

March 17th, I attended the public presentation of the Portland Peninsula Traffic Study, held at the State of Maine Room at Portland City Hall. It was chaired by the ubiquitous Portland City Councilor James Cloutier, and had most of the usual suspects on the study committee in attendance. There were 3 members of the public, myself included.

This meeting was to publicly discuss the entire study, which encompassed the whole peninsulas future traffic situation, but  80% of the two hours was taken up by discussion of the Deering Oaks Reconstruction  project. There was a lot said, most of it bad.

Anne Pringle, president of the Friends of Deering Oaks, and Steven Scharf, secretary of the Parkside Neighborhood Association were there to ram their agenda down the throats of the local, state, and federal officials attending the meeting. The local apparatchicks were easy: they are aiding and abetting, and swallowing the whole thing, if only by their complacency. The federal and state attendees were a different story.

Duane Scott, of the Federal Highway Administration-Maine was there, as was Stephen Landry, Assistant State Traffic Engineer.

After the preliminaries and some discussion of the merits of the Deering Oaks plan, Scott said that the environmental impacts of the Oaks project needed to be addressed, as the FHWA is usually the source of funding for projects like the Oaks Plan.  As the project does not meet most requirements of federal law, specifically the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and Section 4F, and as NEPA regulations were there to promote the making of “good decisions”,  Scott maintained that the plan needed a lot of work to bring it into compliance, if that’s at all possible.

Landry said next that the supporters of the project should perhaps make sure that they are in compliance with state and federal law before going any further, so as to not waste their time and effort promoting a cause which has little chance of approval.

All of this was of course a very diplomatic way of saying “You people are wasting your time with this stupid project because it flies in the face of national engineering standards and federal and state environmental laws”.

Stephen Scharf, member of the Parkside Neighborhood Association, (the guy who said last June,  in reference to the deleterious effects of traffic lining up around the park “We want the congestion. If the roads are congested, people won’t want to drive there, and we don’t want people driving through our neighborhood”) then asked “if the FHWA didn’t fund the project, would we  still be allowed to go forward with it?”. ( Route 77, which is the road to be eliminated, is part of the National Highway System and is a State Route. )

Cloutier chimed in with “Well, we use congestion as a speed management technique. Loss of Service (speaking about intersection viability for cars) needs to be imbedded with pedestrian loss of service. “

Scharf, horrifically entertaining as usual, ended with “ I do not agree with these Loss of Service and environmental problems. We need federal money to do this project, and if state or federal law gets in the way, then those laws should be ignored or changed.”

Anne Pringle chimed in with “ We have been working on this for two years, and don’t want to see all this effort wasted”.

April 14th, 2005;  4 - 6PM

On April 14th, I attended the second Peninsula Traffic Study Committee meeting, held in the City Council chamber at Portland City Hall. This was a smaller group, minus Mssrs Landry and Scott, Anne Pringle, and a couple of others. Most of the talk was about Bayside, and access to I-295.

There was some discussion of all the various neighborhood groups interested in the study, and a statement that those groups were really wanting the information in the final report. Cloutier and Gorrill said that they would finalize the report so the groups could formulate
their own plans.

A question then arose as to “who was responding to the Maine DOTs concerns” about congestion, mobility, and the environmental problems of the Deering Oaks reconstruction.

Cloutier was on his way out the door, but said:  Nobody. We are politely nodding our heads and moving on.

Tom Gorrill said that he had written a response letter to (State traffic engineer) Steven Landry’s letter of concern about all the problems. Chief Engineer Landry’s concerns are expressed in a long, 39-question letter from MDOT to Ralph Norwood of Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers, the designers of the Deering Oaks project.

Questions 30-35 get right to the heart of the matter. The general tone of the letter wonders why the City is making so many egregious errors, and running counter to accepted engineering practice.

City Planner William Needelman asked if Landry’s letter and the response should be in the report.

Planning department head Alex Jaegermann said that the letter and the response did not need to be in the report (why make the city look bad), and that MDOT had backed off its letter—that MDOT had just wanted to point out the regulatory and environmental issues. That's all.


March 3, 2005; 10:00 am

I told Alex Jaegermann and William Needelman at a meeting that I thought the Oaks plan was going to be a useless disaster, much like the Stevens project, the Brighton Avenue narrowing, and the Capisic street roundabouts. He replied that the Traffic Study was just a “planning document”.

(Neither one of them had any comment at all on the city's "methodology" concerning the fraudulent Stevens Avenue Project CMAQ application for funding : This presented a fictitious "speeding problem" that was allegedly causing accidents and pedestrian accidents. But, it was presented to the feds as an "air quality improvement" program, as it would not have been eligible for funding otherwise.)

The next day, after a little thought, I emailed Needleman, with the thought that there were 6 plans on the table for Deering Oaks, the best one  of which was “do nothing” :  it had the least impact on the environment, mobility, and accidents. The others all had very deleterious effects for years to come. One of the two worst was  Plan S-2:  and S-2 is the plan supporters wanted.

That being the case, and as “do nothing” is not on the table at all , it rather sounds like they were planning a disaster. Not a good idea…….

This behavior was nothing new, as been seen with the Stevens Project and the Brighton Avenue narrowing. Gorrill-Palmer is a paid consultantcy, telling city officials what they want to hear, and designing what those officials want to do.

As I've said elsewhere, I was talking to a member of the Planning Dept. about this fiasco,
saying that "do nothing " is the only plan that really works. We may have larger amounts of pollution, congestion, accidents, etc. in 2025, but with ANY of the plans, S-2 especially, we get all of that disastrous result NOW, not in 15 years.  He replied "That's true."



I don’t know how to say this any more plainly: These people thought they were above the law, and they were planning to get their sordid little plan done any way they could. They were violating about 30 federal and state laws regarding creation of truthful documentation, funding, use of the mails, coercion, conspiracy, and degradation of the environment.

If they couldn’t subvert the law, they would ignore it. If the FHWA wouldn’t fund it, then the Parkside Neighborhood Association  would hold a bake sale. Cloutier will handle the vote at City Council, and it’s a done deal. The MPO will rubber stamp it, against regulations stating otherwise.  The state, because Portland is an Urban Compact Area,  blithely lets it slither through its approval process, as it has done previously. Mobility, public safety, and the environment all go down the drain.

I have always wondered what would happen to a member of the general public who willingly ignored and  manipulated the law to get $8,000,000 from the federal government? This for a project that person knew was a huge detriment to the public, but nonetheless was extolling as a benefit to the city.

I think they would go to jail.

Beyond that, what is the penalty for a group of local authorities creating funding request documentation that misrepresents the truth, or flat out lies about the project they want done?

And, what is the penalty for elected officials conspiring with other non-elected officials and/or members of the public to defraud the government, knowing what they are doing is wrong? This, while forcing others who have reservations about the whole mess to comply, because the elected officials have the power to fire the laggards.

Martha Stewart was sent to jail  for 6 months for just lying about a mere $65,000 stock sale based on insider information. She never actually got the money. She just lied about it.

Our local officials and  “experts” were actively conspiring to get 60 times that amount of money for a project that had long-lasting, far-reaching effects on the day-to-day livability of Portland, the environment, and the public safety. Their planned disaster would have affected hundreds of thousands of people every day, year after year: the residents of Portland, and anyone traveling through it. 

What is 30 years of accidents, pollution, and congestion worth to the hundreds of thousands that would have been affected every year by this reprehensible plan?

Better yet would be to actually indict the ringleaders and take them to trial. Make them an object lesson for those in the future that would attempt such fraud on the scale the supporters of the Oaks plan are planning.

Just the scent of an investigation would have been enough to shut the whole Deering Oaks plan  down. And it was!

BUT, what's the penalty NOW?  In Portland, it's just more of the same........