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



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                   Outer Congress St. / Libbytown

This page covers another new fiasco starting up during 2013. More money down the tubes: the redesign of outer Congress St. for the nascent Thompsons Point project , and the speed humping of Libbytown, the latter on a different page (here).

Libbytown is the area of Portland shown here in blue. I-295 can be seen running in from the upper right down into the bottom center. I-295 is the most heavily travelled road in the state, meeting I-95 about 5 miles to the South.  Congress St. is the sinuous street in yellow extending off to the left by the red square, thence off the map.

Deering Oaks is the area under the "Parkside" text on the map.

Thompsons Point is a spit of land projecting into the Fore River that up to 2013 was the site of a lumber reclamation facility, propane company, storage spaces, and other various small businesses. It currently is proposed for development into a mixed use convention center, hotel, shopping complex.

The project will require the redesign of outer Congress to handle the increased traffic forecast for the new development. Notice I said "increased traffic"...... BUT  what is being planned is to make Congress in the  Hood milk plant / Dennys area ONLY two lanes wide!

Also, it's important keep in mind that the City Council, the Munjoy Hill Association,  Friends of Deering Oaks, and Parkside Neighborhood Association all want to direct all the traffic off 295 and incoming from Washington, Forest, Brighton, Congress, and from Route 1 South over the Veterans Bridge, going to and from the Old Port, to the Fore River Parkway through Libbytown.

What we would have is this:

All of the exits at Congress Street would be eliminated; only the  Thompsons Point exit would allow access to Congress St. in or outbound, and the Fore River Parkway.

 This is over 100,000 cars a day going through that ONE intersection.  

Coming in from the North on I-295 to head West on Congress you would get off on the ramp under the yellow dotted line ("A"), swing right and turn left, instead of just bearing off 295at the exit  North of Congress and making a right. This seems "OK", but think about coming in from the South : you would get off as you do today, then join all the traffic coming in from the North where the Fore River Parkway intersects the ramp! ("B").  Assume that there might be just a couple of people having dinner in the Old Port who are going to Thompsons Point via the Parkway for a show, or some sleep, and you have one hell of a mess!

Then toss in the traffic coming in from the East on Park Ave. ( top blue dotted lines) along with the traffic from Congress St. (Park Avenue in 2013 is currently all outbound on 2 lanes; Congress East of 295 is inbound on 2 lanes - that would change to JUST two lanes for Congress...) and you have gridlock!

To get access to Congress St. inbound from the Parkway you would have to join the line up there by Thompsons Point and take a right, instead of going straight, by the loop, as occurs today ("C").

This mess is confusing just to look at on paper, let alone try to drive through.

The supporters of re-routing Route 77 wanted the state to make it follow the 3.5 mile Purple route, versus the .7 mile route in red.
The light blue shaded areas off I-295 would have had the ramps eliminated, directing all the 295 traffic to the purple route.
There would be no direct access to or from Congress St. from 295.  (larger view here)

Design engineers Dubois and King, of Randolph, VT did the final report on the project which can be seen here.

Thankfully, the procedure for making changes to the Interstates is VERY slow and complex.
MDOT has made itself known to NOT be in favor of this nascent disaster, as seen in the
Sept. 13, 2013 letter about this report from State Traffic Engineer Steve Landry to the City (here).

Lucinda Gibson of  Dubois and King rebutted with her letter of Oct. 28, 2013.....

What's really interesting about all of this, as explained by Ms. Gibson, is that for decades Portland has been trying to get traffic off the local streets onto I-295.

Now, this project  is supposed to take it off 295 and onto Park Street! It flies in the face of decades of maneuvering by Anne Pringle, head of the Friends of Deering Oaks, to shut down traffic entirely around Deering Oaks, and especially up State Street. They don't want people in their neighborhood!