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



 Stevens Avenue

Stevens Summary



Public Concern

Air Quality

Curbs, Medians, Tables

Pedestrian Accidents

Vehicle Accidents



Muskie Institute

Legal Aspects


MDOT data

SAP Lies


Opponent Petition

ATC Brochure

 Kane letters


Deering Oaks

Brighton Avenue

Capisic  Street


Stop Signs

        Stevens Avenue Project: Fraud


            The FBI in the Fall of 1998 found  that the Stevens Project met their criteria for misuse of government funds and fraud. The Justice Dept. in Washington did a little research into the project, basically checking with CMAQ head Michael Savonis. He told them that he had declared the project an experiment after the fact ("everybody meant well" ---oh, brother...) and that he would not file a complaint. The FBI not having a complaint, declined to pursue this matter.

            If Savonis had filed a complaint, the FBI would have investigated the Portland City Council, DPW, PACTS, and Maine DOT for misuse of government funds and fraud, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).        

           Portland is required by the FHWA to maintain its National Highway System (NHS) routes “…with a functional classification as Principal Arterial”. Portland official’s tacit acceptance of requests for traffic calming, particularly speed tables, on major arterials in the city is disingenuous to all. They should not be lulling the public with promises of action where none would be allowed by federal regulation,  and should not be lying to the government in trying to get arterials calmed. This was and is double-dealing at its finest.

            The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has told Maine and Portland that traffic calming may be applied to the major arterials of the city that are in the National Highway System (NHS)  only if those streets are withdrawn from the system. At that point Portland would lose any federal or state funding for future improvements on that street.       

            If future road or infrastructure improvements are mandated by the state or federal government, the city will be required to pay for the entire cost of the project itself, such as the $37,000,000 cost of the Casco Bay bridge. No more federal gravy train for the city when they ignore the regulations.

            Of course the City got around the regs when they "kept" Stevens as a "minor" arterial, even though it has 5 times the level of traffic that denotes a minor arterial; it's really a major arterial.

            Through the years the city has consistently misrepresented the Stevens project, it's effects upon the accident rate, the environment, and general public safety.  That's illegal.

            The Deering Oaks Project is another example of  political influence run amok : Basically a land grab of the park by the Parkside Neighborhood Association, it would have created a traffic nightmare in the center of the city. It would have cost $37,000,000.  To further those ends, a city-wide traffic study was done (Portland Peninsula Traffic Study), as one was needed anyway, and in particular to see what would happen if the Oaks Project was authorized.

              In general the study was accurate when concerned with any other area of the City other than the Oaks. The Oaks section was pure fiction.
              The authors suggested that eliminating the cut through the park would better the air quality, increase pedestrian and motorist safety, and make the park a better place. That is all lie.

               During the Fall of 2010 I visited  Professor Mohammed Al-Taha, the Director of Graduate Studies in Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Southern Maine.  I asked him about the veracity of slower traffic improving air quality, as the Oaks proponents had asserted (this improvement would require the laws of physics as they exist in the world  today to change). 
                He thought about it for a while, then told  me that while that could happen (the laws of physics changing) the odds of that happening were some where around 1 to 10 -21st -- a number larger than all the atoms in the known universe.
It's not going to happen, folks: it's a lie. Fraud.



           The problem from the state's point of view is that the City of Portland is out of control. During my many years of talking to state officials, they have repeatedly stated and implied that Portland is a law unto itself, and as such will ignore any expertise if that information conflicts with the plan du jour. Portland is always ready with their hand out for state funding, but refuses to abide by the law, guidelines, and recommendations of the state.

          Portland is in what is known as an Urban Compact Area, which most cities over 50,000 are. Very simply, what that means is that the feds and state can give Portland money, and  Portland can do anything it wants to with that money with almost no oversight.  It's like giving a meth head a pound of crystal, and telling him : "Now make this last!" Sure he will.....
           In 2007  I had a talk with a retired MDOT engineer at a function at the University of Maine. He told me that from an engineering standpoint the big problems arose in the 70s and 80s when "community involvement" became the norm.  Politicians wanted to get locals invested in their neighborhoods and city, started citizen "advisory" panels, and things went down the tubes.
           The inexpert citizenry started micro-managing state projects, and the politicians went along with them to get re-elected. The panels were usually made up of people with an agenda of some sort, and along with their friends the politicians, started telling the engineers how to do their job.  The pols told the engineers were told to shut up, listen, and just do what the public wanted.

             I've heard "advisors" tell FHWA and MDOT officials : "If there are any state or federal laws that prevent this project from going forward, then those laws should be changed or ignored".
            Or: "We've worked on this project for three years and it has to get done the way we want it to."
             And, from a City Councilor, when asked by a consultant about what to do in the face of state regulations preventing a certain project : "We are going to nod our head in acknowledgement and keep going".
            Hence, the situation we have today : one where elected officials are ordering rank and file City employees and contractors to knowingly break the law to further projects they know are violating city, state, and federal regulations.

            To do so, those city employees and contractors have to create false documentation to to get the funding the city needs. Misrepresentation, exaggeration, and lies are the norm. All of that science fiction gets sent to the state, who rubber stamp it and shell out the money.
It's quite the system: fraud, plain and simple.
             The upshot is that state and city employees feel disenfranchised, ignored, and like political pawns in the City Council's chess games.  Bad for morale.
 If the employees resist, or complain, they have been told to comply or be disciplined or fired. See the 2005 Calming Report Cover-up for more on that.