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October 15, 2020

South Portland traffic study will explore water transport to Portland, more

a view across water of Portland with buildings and a churck spire and on the near side an apartment complex on the water Photo / Rebecca Milliken The view across Casco Bay to Portland from the area of Broadway east of Mill Creek in South Portland. A traffic study of the South Portland peninsula is looking into the feasibility of water transport between the two cities.

The feasibility of marine-based transit between downtown Portland and South Portland will be on the table as planners explore how to ease traffic congestion on South Portland's peninsula and prepare the city for the future.

A study launched this month is looking at traffic patterns on Broadway between the busy Mill Creek area, where the Casco Bay Bridge comes over from Portland, to Cushing Point, the area of Bug Light and Southern Maine Community College. The study's goal is to optimize travel safety and ease, accommodate anticipated growth, and maintain the character of surrounding neighborhoods.

Broadway is a major transportation corridor that traverses the city and connects U.S. Route 1 and the Maine Mall area to the residential and waterfront areas to the east. The study comes as the city prepares for a Comprehensive Plan update in 2024, and also anticipates development anticipated under its current plan, which envisions walkable neighborhood centers in the area.

Marine transportation to and from downtown Portland is an idea that has been discussed for years. The study will provide a data-based assessment of what it would take for a water-based service to become a reality.

Earlier studies have evaluated bicycle and pedestrian facilities, transit access and traffic safety. The new study's focus is on how to make the most of existing road infrastructure to allow people to move more efficiently in and through the area's neighborhoods.

The $82,000 study is funded largely by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, a metropolitan planning organization. The city of South Portland is providing a $36,000 local match. A virtual public meeting is planned for Monday, Nov. 9, with another one in March. There's also an online survey available for the public to complete.

Final recommendations and an implementation plan will be included in the final report, expected to be available to the public early next summer.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to study this key section of Broadway in South Portland," said Chris Chop, transportation director at the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

"This corridor is vital for residents, employees, students and visitors, and we look forward to learning more about it and identifying ways to improve mobility for all users of the transportation system; from those walking and biking, to riding the bus and driving."

Milan Nevajda, planning director in South Portland, said the study will be critical and valuable for the area. 

“South Portland is currently reviewing a draft of the One Climate Future plan, which calls for more sustainable development and more efficient transportation options throughout the city," Nevajda said. "Ensuring efficient vehicular flow and safe and attractive options for walking, biking and taking the bus are essential to the One Climate Future plan.

"The Broadway corridor is a critical circulation backbone in the city and this study will help us understand how to optimize it for all users. We also expect that the study area will be a very dynamic part of the city over the next 10 to 20 years, so we want to ensure that we are providing the best infrastructure possible to support the community’s vision for development.”

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