Whether on foot or by car, crossing the six-way intersection next to the University of southern Maine Portland campus can be time consuming and hazardous. But the city of Portland and USM would like to change that.
The Portland City Council held a public meeting in March to discuss the intersection and has contracted a consultant firm, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. to study the intersection to see how to make it flow more effectively.
With 25 accidents between 2007 and 2009, the crossroads has an accident rate 17 percent higher than intersections with similar levels of traffic flow, leading to its designation as a high crash location by the Maine Department of Transportation.
“The intersection is a constant source of complaint,” said District 2 City Councilor David Marshall. “It doesn’t really work well for any mode of transportation.”
According to Bob Caswell, executive director of public affairs at USM, this is not the first time the intersection was assessed. “The study goes back at least six or seven years. The university was in the process of getting approval [from the city] for the University Commons,” said Caswell. The University Commons includes the Wishcamper Center and Osher Map Library, as well as other properties on lower Bedford street.
The city of Portland conducted a study of the intersection but decided not to do anything about it at the time. The university agreed with the city to put aside $230,000 to be used at some point to improve the intersection.
During the first meeting held by the city council in March, residents in the area discussed how they use the intersection and what they would like to see done with it. Talk ranged from closing off Brighton Extension, the stretch of Brighton ave. connecting to Bedford st. or creating a roundabout, to simply increasing signage.
Maeve Wood, an undeclared freshman at USM, said she is looking forward to any kind of improvement being made. “I drive through the intersection a couple times a week, and I don’t absolutely hate it, but I think it would be more efficient with a roundabout,” said Wood.
Another student, Chris Poulos, a senior political science major, said he’s frustrated with the short time allotted to each of the lights and the wideness of the intersection. ”The lights often change to red before one is even through the intersection he,” said.
At the meeting in March, two traffic engineers from Vanasse Hangen and Brustlin Inc. who are helping assess plans for the intersection, estimated costs of redesigning an intersection to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They said work the eventual solution would begin within the next two years.
USM is prepared to contribute $230,000 to the project, with the rest coming from local and federal sources.
In the next public meeting, to be held on April 26, potential solutions will be discussed and evaluated. For those unable to attend, but who would like to contribute to the solution, contact Kennedy, at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or suggestions regarding the intersection project.