By Asha Tompkins, Arts and Culture Editor
The USM roundabout is an on-going, multimodal project and one aspect of its creation is the actual construction that will allow artwork to be placed on the roundabout.
The project itself will take approximately 18 months to construct, however the construction starting date has not yet been determined. The hope is to begin in 2020, according to Conrad Welzel a Transportation Project Manager for the City of Portland. The Portland Public Art Committee (PPAC) became interested in the project and pursued it, but the implementation of artwork is a separate effort on their part.
“We have to finish the final design work with all the right of way components completed before a Bid Package can be put together and the project goes out to bid” said Welzel. “Right of way is the legal right to use property as a thoroughfare [a path that forms a route between two places]. There is a need for additional property to build this project.”
He explained that the final design is predominantly coordinated by the city of Portland and the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT). They’ve “worked out the basics with USM,” he said, so that the university has an understanding of what will be changed in terms of their property, Bedford Street and the intersection as a whole.
“I’m jumping in the middle of it,” said Welzel. “It’s been ongoing for seven or eight years. The process started in 2012. I started working for the city about a year and a half ago and this is one of the projects I was assigned.”
Welzel said that as the project manager, he has to work with the Maine DOT, USM and other partners as a city representative. His job is to get different people to work together and come up with a project that makes sense.
“It’s going to be a totally different footprint on the ground, so it’s a matter of having to step-by-step rebuild that different footprint,” said Welzel. “One of the parts of it is that eastern direction of Brighton Avenue won’t exist anymore. Another piece of the project is allowing people to still travel through the intersection and, at the same time, be safe enough to continue with construction.”
Caitlin Cameron, urban designer for the City of Portland and member of the PPAC, said that “the city decided to implement a traffic project, that’s the roundabout project.”
“The PPAC tries to use public art to enhance city public projects,” said Cameron. “In that regard, the public art component is separate, the USM roundabout project is the department of public work of transportation project. It includes the state transportation project as well.”
There is a difference between a roundabout and a rotary: both are a type of traffic circle; however, the roundabout is a slow-moving, safer design that handles high volumes of traffic and pedestrians’ usage very safely and efficiently. This is why the implementation of the roundabout artwork is possible.
The PPAC held the second “Public Artwork Selection Committee Meeting” on Thursday, Feb. 7 to discuss the artists and artwork. Upcoming meetings regarding the selection of artists for the roundabout can be found at https://www.portlandmaine.gov/Calendar.aspx.