By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,679)
Readers may have heard about changes that could be coming to the Franklin Street area for a few years now. If you would like to get an update on the progress, please mark your calendars for this public workshop. The public is invited to attend a forum on Wednesday, January 29th from 6:30 -8:30 pm at the Portland Public Library, Rines Auditorium. The City of Portland and consultant team for the Franklin Street Feasibility Study will be providing a brief overview of the study process and progress followed by an opportunity for the public to give direct input on specific possible uses and configurations of the Franklin Street corridor. The corridor runs from 1-295 to Commercial Street at the bottom of Munjoy Hill.
The progress made to date stems from the vision of Munjoy Hill resident Markos Miller, an educator with a penchant for urban design. Back in 2006, the City’s Peninsula Traffic study called for an eventual widening of Franklin Arterial to eight (8) lanes. Miller organized a group of neighbors concerned about development because there was no provision for pedestrian facilities, few crossings, no boke access and acres of inaccessible or underutilized public space according to an email from him to MHN.com .He regretted the fact that the Franklin Arterial, as it was known until two years ago, divided the Hill from the rest of Portland – creating a barrier from downtown Portland as well.
The City Council tabled the Traffic Study. The Miller group decided it needed to come up with alternatives to the Traffic Study to present to the city. This resulted in a report presented to then city manager Joe Gray. He liked the report and funded additional work with seed money in the amount of $30,000. The charge for the Miller Study Group was to develop three (3) possible design concepts. That was done and they were displayed at the Merrill Auditorium rehersal hall and caused local much buzz. That was during 2008-09. That was Phase 1 of the study. The buzz has quieted down.
Currently Phase 2 is underway and is meant to fine tune, update and improve upon those concepts. They will be evaluated through a “data-based analysis (enginnering, economics, etc.)” to arrive at a final design for the Franklin Street corridor, according to Miller.
A neighborhood that had existed, Little Italy, was torn down during Urban Renewal and replaced with the Arterial. Many residents of the area were displaced. The intent was to provide a major corridor for traffic from Interstate 295 to Portland’s downtown. For example, the Maine State Pier, a deepwater marine facility and outdoor music venue, is located at the intersection of Franklin Street and Commercial Street – the Street’s final destination.
This January 29th public workshop is an important opportunity to catch-up on the progress made in the last seven years and speak to some of the decision makers in the process. It is the first of two such meetings.