The Maine Department of Transportation has begun a project in Portland that it says should make travel on Forest Avenue significantly safer for drivers and pedestrians.

The $1.7 million project is designed to make the Interstate 295 Exit 6 northbound and southbound off-ramps easier to access and exit, said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

Traffic safety engineers have identified the Forest Avenue ramps as “high crash locations” that produce a significant number of rear-end collisions. Talbot said more than 50 accidents have been reported on each exit ramp over the past three years.

Talbot said the ramps have extremely high traffic volume, with more than 35,000 vehicles a day.

The state identified the ramps as problems mainly because of “shallow angles” that make it difficult for drivers to see cars and pedestrians.

Talbot said flashing beacons will be installed at all Forest Avenue pedestrian crossings, lane widths on Forest Avenue will be reduced to create wider paved shoulders for bicyclists, and there will be shorter, more visible pedestrian crossings.

The project began Sunday and will continue daily from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice to minimize the impact on traffic. The work is expected to be completed by September. Shaw Brothers Construction of Gorham has been hired to do the project.

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