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




Deering Oaks

Peninsula Study :

Peninsula Traffic Study

MDOT ?????

Chapter 9

Rose Garden Myth

 Myth, Reality

Principles / Objectives


Deering Oaks / State St.

State/High 2 Way

Stevens Avenue

Brighton Avenue

Capisic Street


Maine Statutes


    From the Portland Peninsula Study

The Peninsula Study in its entirety, here.

My comments in blue

From page "i" of the Study:

"The following study is the first comprehensive traffic evaluation of the Portland peninsula in over thirty years. Previous large-scale traffic projects in Portland have left a mixed legacy of increased traffic capacity with a corresponding decrease in pedestrian amenities and" neighborhood quality of life. Indeed, when one looks at the division and demolition of Libbytown for Route 295, the destruction of the Franklin Street and lower Spring Street neighborhoods for arterial construction, and the introduction of high speed traffic in the historic Deering Oaks, Portland has historically paid a high price for improved traffic mobility."   

First of all, 25 MPH is not "high speed traffic" : that is what plan supporters call it. It's not. "Improved traffic mobility" seems to be a problem, for some reason. Improved mobility creates easier access for vehicles, decreases accidents, congestion, and increases air quality.

The "pedestrian amenities" the sidewalks, crosswalks, and signals are still there.

Imagine Portland without I-295. Everyone would be coming up Route 1, or in on Brighton and Forest Avenues. Gridlock: a very "high price".
The big contradiction in bringing up the construction of The Franklin Arterial and lower Spring Street is that those roads allow easy ingress and egress to and from the Peninsula and its interior. Without those arterials, one would have all that horrible traffic, especially trucks, driving through the much lamented "neighborhoods" , which is specifically what Oaks supporters don't want...or at least what they complain about.

As for that 'high price" what  would we be paying without access to good arterials?

"While the price has been high, there have also been benefits. Portland remains a vibrant urban center serving the Northern New England region as a cultural, economic, educational and transportation center. All of these attributes require a roadway system that adequately and safely serves the traveling public." Yes, like  I-295, Franklin Arterial, and Spring Street! All of the above mentioned make Portland a very livable city, which is mentioned in the national news all the time. The arterials make it easy to get into, out of, and move around the city.

"The charge of the Peninsula Traffic Study Committee has been to look toward the next twenty-five years of development on the Portland peninsula and to recommend a roadway master plan that best serves the range of City objectives (see Chapter 2 of the following report). Comprised of primarily neighborhood and business leaders, the Committee, along with the consultant team and City staff, has attempted to achieve the goals of the study in the face of competing, at times conflicting objectives. The objectives of reducing traffic congestion need to be balanced with the need to retain and improve pedestrian and bicycle opportunities. Likewise, the objectives of reducing impacts of traffic on neighborhoods and parks need to be balanced by the recognition that the peninsula needs to accommodate a significant amount of vehicles to ensure Portland’s place as a destination community and economic center. The Committee has strived to strike an appropriate balance while working through a complicated body of technical and policy material."

Unfortunately, the "city objectives" mentioned are being driven by special interest groups that do not have the best interests of the City in mind;  just their own interests. The sentences in this paragraph contradict themselves from one to the next.

The "competing and conflicting objectives" are those that get in the way of the Committees objectives. "Reducing traffic congestion" in reference to the Oaks Project is a contradiction in terms. Increase congestion is all it does.  "Traffic impacts on neighborhoods" is the driving interest when it comes to the Oaks Project, Portland be damned.

"Balance" has nothing to do with it. The "complicated body of technical and policy material",  little things like the Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act , Title 4, etc. , got ignored.

If there are any state or federal laws that are getting in the
   way of this project, they need to be changed or ignored"
Stephen Scharf, Secretary of the Parkside Neighborhood Association

"The Committee wishes to convey two important points at the onset of this report. First, that this plan, as an outgrowth of a traffic study, is not a comprehensive transportation plan for the Peninsula. This report outlines a plan and recommendations for roadways and vehicle movement and should not be considered separately from broader transportation documents serving the City of Portland and the region. Importantly, the Committee feels that the anticipated and currently funded Alternative Transportation Study will be a critical complement to this traffic study for creating transportation policy for the City over the next twenty-five years."

Considering that almost every other transportation document existing contradicts the Oaks supporters plans, the relevance of this statement is questionable. The Oaks Plan contradicts federal and state law, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) , The Maine State Transportation Implementation Plan (TIP) , the Bi-ennial TIP, Destination Tomorrow, you name it.

A Transportation Policy that increases congestion and decreases mobility and a clean environment is good, how?

The fact that the Oaks Plan was even kept to get into the discussion is deplorable. It's just an utter waste of time, unless you have an agenda, and think you can push it with a compliant city staff, which you have with your friends on the City Council. 

"Secondly, this plan, which concentrates on physical roadway improvements, should be accompanied and coordinated with amendments to other City policies and regulations. For example, the current City Site Plan Ordinance restricts development that reduces level of service below Level “D” as described by national traffic engineering standards.

 Given that some degree of congestion is predictable in the urban environment of Portland’s peninsula, this Committee recommends a reevaluation of this type of criteria to allow flexibility and creative response to downtown traffic conditions. In fact, the State’s MDOT Traffic Permit Criteria for Urban Environments provides the City with a model worthy of consideration.

The Committee hopes that this study and report will provide a basis for looking at alternatives to “level of Service” criteria at both the local regulatory level and at the regional funding level."

This is an amazing paragraph: "...coordinated to other city policies"? What they mean is: "ignore those policies if they get in the way".

According to the feds and  state, "physical roadway improvements" do not include making mobility, safety, and air quality worse. ("Improvements" is used in these documents in ALL cases, whether or not the entity being talked about has a good result or not. "Changes" would be accurate, but accuracy is NOT what plan supporters want to see, because they don't want to be shut down).

"National Traffic Engineering Loss of Service Standards" of "D" or below by design are usually not allowed because they are a disaster.  An "F " level is flat-out not allowed.

"Some degree of congestion is predictable..." but "re-evaluating " it (ignoring it) , to allow "  "flexibility and creative response"  (which means total abrogation of 60 years of national traffic engineering experience), is nuts.

WHAT this paragraph says is that the authors and Oaks Committee supporters don't care about anything  other than furthering the Oaks Project, at any expense to the City, public, or the environment. Laws don't matter, federal and state regulations don't matter, nothing matters. It HAS to be done.

"The Committee forwards the following report with the understanding that not all of the recommendations will be universally popular and that compromise underlies the reasoning and decision-making behind the plan. As Portland has experienced in the previous thirty years, traffic planning is fraught with challenges and opportunities. In this environment, compromise is a laudable tool and provides the balance that will guide the City for the next twenty-five years of growth."

Except that nobody is compromising other than the unsuspecting hapless population of Portland:  Their safety, mobility, air quality, and quality of life are all compromised by the Oaks Plan. They are getting that jammed down their throat, which plan supporters love.  

This pretty much says it all : A study completely slanted towards completion of the Oaks Project, at the expense of the entire Peninsulas well-being.

And this is just the Preface.......