2016-04-22 / Front Page

Better Cash flow

Changes coming to Cash Corner, Broadway
By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer


Eastern Excavation of Westbrook began work this week on a 10-foot-wide multi-use path that will link an existing walkway that leads from the Interstate 295 on-ramp to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, to the busy Cash Corner intersection of Main Street and Broadway. A second path, to be built in 2019, will link the intersection to the Thornton Heights sidewalk system. (Duke Harrington photo) Eastern Excavation of Westbrook began work this week on a 10-foot-wide multi-use path that will link an existing walkway that leads from the Interstate 295 on-ramp to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, to the busy Cash Corner intersection of Main Street and Broadway. A second path, to be built in 2019, will link the intersection to the Thornton Heights sidewalk system. (Duke Harrington photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — Three of the busiest, and some say most dangerous, intersections in South Portland are in line for a significant overhaul.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, South Portland is “on the short list” for a grant that would make traffic light and crosswalk improvements at the intersections of Broadway and Evans Street, and just up the road, at Broadway and Lincoln Street. Also up for grant funding from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee (PACTS) is the giant X that marks the intersection of Broadway and Main Street.

This map, created by the South Portland Department of Planning and Development, shows the location of a new 10-foot-wide multi-use path that began construction this week, at a projected cost of $334,812, linking Cash Corner to a path that now leads from the entrance to the Interstate 295 onramp to the Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Fore River to Portland. (Courtesy image)

This map, created by the South Portland Department of Planning and Development, shows the location of a new 10-foot-wide multi-use path that began construction this week, at a projected cost of $334,812, linking Cash Corner to a path that now leads from the entrance to the Interstate 295 onramp to the Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Fore River to Portland. (Courtesy image)

There, in an area named Cash Corner – after George Washington Cash, who began selling items out of a peddler’s cart there in the 1860s, and later built a general store where the Rite Aid now stands – plans call for the creation of a multi-use path through the area. That path, Gailey said will be the “missing link” connecting a current and planned sidewalk system extending from Westbrook Street in the Thornton Heights neighborhood to the Portland side of the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Those three projects, totaling $672,802, won’t come until 2019, if selected by PACTS. South Portland filed an application in January and, to keep the ball rolling, the city council was scheduled to vote Wednesday to “formally endorse” the concepts. That vote came after this week’s Sentry deadline.

If South Portland makes the cut from short-lister to grant winner, the projects will require a 25 percent match from the city, totaling $134,561 against the $537,241 PACTS would provide.

When Veterans Memorial Bridge opened in 2012, it included a sidewalk, which struck some as odd, because it didn’t connect to any existing pedestrian system. However, this week work began on a $334,812 project to build a 10-foot wide path on the south side of Main Street – to be shared by bicyclists and pedestrians – linking the path along the Blue Star Memorial Highway on-ramp to Interstate 295 and the bridge to Cash Corner. That project, also funded by PACTS with a 25 percent match from the city, was awarded in January to Eastern Excavation of Westbrook, which bid $150,903. The company also did the initial Phase I site work for the new Municipal Service Complex being built off Highland Avenue.

For the sidewalk project, Eastern Excavation is creating a drainage system and installing decorative LED street lights. The city’s public works department will put in the sidewalk pavement and curbing, as well as the associated landscaping and road striping. All work is expected to be done, and the new path ready for use, by June 30.

The portion to be built in 2019 – at a projected cost of $371,264 – will be slightly narrower than the section now being built.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have quite as much room to work with in the intersection as we do on Main Street,” City Planning Director Tex Haeuser said on Tuesday.

The Main Street path will narrow and wrap around the point where Main Street meets Broadway, then cross Broadway in front of Willow’s Pizza. From there, the new path will skirt the entire intersection on the south side, in front of Firefighters Memorial Park, which separates Cash Street from the Cash Corner intersection. Plans call for existing walking paths though the park to be widened by about 2 feet, to better accommodate bike traffic, while all crosswalks on Cash Corner will be redesigned to make them more handicapped accessible.

Mayor Tom Blake, a retired firefighter who served his entire career in South Portland, has often noted that before the park was built, when Cash Street emptied out into the intersection, the area was better known among his peers as “Crash Corner.” To protect pedestrians and bicyclists, the new sidewalk path will be separated from intersection traffic by a guardrail. However approaches to the intersection, along both directions of Broadway and Main Street, will be repainted to include shared lanes for cars and bikes.

“The Cash Corner intersection is daunting for pedestrians and bicyclists today,” Haeuser wrote in the PACTS funding application. “Creating safe passage through this busy intersection would be significant and leave just the section of Main Street from Cash Corner to Mardale Avenue to complete in order to have continuous bicycle and pedestrian facilities from the Veterans Memorial Bridge southerly along Main Street (U.S. Route 1) to Westbrook Street, not too far from the Scarborough town line, which is the ultimate goal.”

The sidewalk from Mardale Avenue to Westbrook Street was built last year as part of the $4.7 million Thornton Heights sewer separation project. That work, designed to keep stormwater runoff from getting into the sewer system and overflowing effluent into the Fore River and Casco Bay, was topped off with new sidewalks and narrowed travel lanes on Main Street, to give the area more of a neighborhood feel.

Linking the Cash Corner walkway with the Thornton Heights sidewalk system will have to wait for dollars to come sometime after 2019.

“Unfortunately, the cost of this additional extension exceeded PACTS available funding, so it will need to be pursued in a subsequent application,” Haeuser wrote.

Overall, Haeuser said, the multi-use path to be built though Cash Corner is part of a vision outlined in the city’s 2012 comprehensive plan, to remake the area from a traffic hub into a mixed-use neighborhood that is welcoming to residents and pedestrians and not merely a throughway for cars.

Meanwhile, if Cash Corner is currently scary to navigate for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists alike, it’s the intersections of Broadway with Lincoln and Evans streets that are comparatively dangerous.

According to a Maine Department of Transportation crash summary report, from 2012 to 2014 there were 46 accidents at the two intersections, 26 percent of which resulted in personal injury.

Moreover, according to Gailey, the LOS, or level of service, at the town intersections was rated as an “F” during peak evening commuting hours, based on a 2013 traffic study. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Capacity Manual defines an “F” rating as “breakdown (traffic) flow.” In other words, the manual states, traffic at these times is akin to “a constant traffic jam” in which “travel (time) cannot be predicted, with generally more demand than capacity.

Even under optimum conditions, the intersections rarely rate better than a “D,” which the highway manual considers “approaching unstable flow.”

If funded by PACTS, a $301,538 project will help resolve the issue by installing new traffic lights. By connecting those to the city’s regional traffic management system along a new fiberoptic network now under construction, better coordination of signal lights should help reduce traffic congestion at the two intersections by between 15 and 44 percent, depending on the hour.

According to Haeuser, although the Lincoln and Evans street intersections on Broadway are only 1,000 feet apart, “they currently operate independently of each other,” meaning, “they are not interconnected or coordinated.”

“Peak hour congestion rises regularly to unacceptable levels in the p.m. hours at both intersections, resulting in long queues and cycle failures,” Haeuser wrote in the PACTS application.

The new lights also will include cameras for round-the-clock vehicle counting, and to help with scene management by firefighters and police during any emergency incidents that do occur.

As with the Cash Corner work, the Broadway intersections at Evans and Lincoln streets will be remade for better compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Getting the signals and crosswalks at Evans and Lincoln right are vital, Haeuser said, because “these intersections are key to the movement of traffic from the east side of South Portland to the west side of the community. This section of Broadway is the sole link in the existing roadway network that provides for this crosstown movement.”

Return to top