Portland is hitting the brakes on a project to improve traffic flows near the Franklin Street interchange with Interstate 295.

Instead of entering into an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation to advance the project, the Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to delay the vote until Sept. 16 and referred the project to its Transportation and Sustainability Committee. Staff plans to try less-costly fixes to address traffic issues there.

The delay was sought because of the $5.4 million cost of the project, nearly $4.3 million coming from the city. Councilors also had concerns the changes would only encourage more traffic on the busy arterial.

City Councilor Belinda Ray, who represents the district, said she would like to see a new plan that would advance the city’s long-term vision for Franklin Street. That long-term plan, estimated in 2015 to cost $34 million, calls for the elimination of a grassy median and building a new two-way road with more bike and pedestrian access. The long-term plan also would free up land for development.

“I remain excited about the master plan for Franklin Street,” Ray said, noting she served on the planning committee before being elected to the council. “I don’t want anyone to think we’re kicking that aside – we’re not.”

City Manager Jon Jennings said the delay would allow the city staff to have discussions with the new administration in Augusta. He said the city will look into installing advanced traffic signals, like those on Forest Avenue and at Morrill’s Corner, to help ease congestion.

“That would be a less costly option,” Jennings said.

The project postponed by the council would have lengthened the northbound exit and approach ramps, and added travel lanes to improve the flow of traffic getting on and off I-295 at Exit 7, according to a project description. The traffic signal at the intersection of the northbound off-ramp and Franklin Street – a frequent bottleneck – may have been upgraded as part of the project.

The nearby intersection of Marginal Way and Franklin Street would have been renovated to add a 50-foot-wide crosswalk near the Bayside Trail crossing.

Travel lanes would have been added to Franklin Street and Marginal Way and bicycle travel lanes would have been installed.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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