A roughly 10-acre swath of land next to the Cumberland County Jail that Portland officials have considered as a site for a new police station has been removed from a potential land swap between the city and state, at least for now.

The County Way property also had been considered as a possible site for the city’s new homeless shelter before city councilors removed it from the final list of possible sites.

The state-owned land on County Way was one of several parcels the Maine Department of Transportation was considering giving to the city in exchange for city-owned land at the International Marine Terminal.

But in recent weeks, state officials informed city officials that the department would like to examine this summer whether the County Way land is needed for the Portland Transportation Center, a multimodal facility for trains, buses and the like.

The land swap is on hold until the study is completed, said Nina Fisher, deputy transportation commissioner. She said state officials want to make sure they do not need the County Way land for a railroad wye – a triangular section of track used for turning trains – or some other use.

“If a wye track is not indicated as needed by said study, the County Way property would then again be available for inclusion in the swap,” Fisher said.

City Manager Jon Jennings said he and city staff have been part of discussions of the future of the transportation center, which is currently located at Thompson’s Point. And he supports the project.

“I am very supportive of the effort by (Transportation) Commissioner (Bruce) Van Note to look at where a new transportation center should be sited and most importantly, to finally make it happen after many years of uncertainty,” Jennings said in an email Tuesday. “City staff is serving on the working group to discuss next steps for a transportation center that may include the property.”

The County Way site emerged in February as one of the few feasible locations for a new homeless services center, given its proximity to public transportation and services such as hospitals, temporary employment agencies and counseling.

And Jennings suggested to the City Council’s Economic Development Committee that the city consider building a new public safety building on the site. The new building would allow police to move out of the department’s downtown building on Middle Street so the city could sell it. Fire administrators would also move into the new building, Jennings said.

Jennings said he remains interested in building a new public safety building and recently discussed the idea again with interim Police Chief Vern Malloch.

“Just yesterday I discussed with Chief Malloch our continued interest in a modern public safety building,” he said. “We will explore other sites in the city for the possible move of the police department.”

The potential loss of the County Way land also could further limit the council’s options for siting a new homeless shelter if the current candidates are rejected.

The council is scheduled to vote June 17 on whether to build a new homeless services center, with up to 150-beds, on city-owned land at either 654 Riverside St. or Angelo’s Acre, a gravel parking lot on Commercial Street near the Casco Bay Bridge.

But many who spoke during a three-hour public comment period Monday urged councilors to reject both options and begin the search anew.

Mayor Ethan Strimling said he doesn’t think a majority of councilors support either of the two sites, but that could change over the next two weeks. Still, he’s not concerned about the state pulling County Way from the mix.

“I don’t really have a strong reaction,” said Strimling, who wants the city to build several smaller shelters. “It was not a site I thought would be viable for the big shelter anyway. There were a lot of environmental concerns on that site anyway.”

An environmental assessment noted contaminated soils associated with the property’s past use as a rail yard and a landfill. But Jennings had said the city was asking the state to clean-up the site as part of the land swap.

City Councilor Kimberly Cook said she was considering whether to ask the council also to vote on the County Way site for the shelter, even though it had been eliminated by the council’s Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committee because of safety concerns associated with heavy traffic and its proximity to the rail lines and the Fore River.

Cook said she spoke with Van Note last week about the DOT study, which should be completed by the fall. She suggested that the site could be added back into the mix if the state doesn’t need it and if the council rejects the two current options.

Cook stressed that she supports having the city build and operate one new shelter, but believes 150 beds is too large. She has been pushing for the council to discuss whether it should continue to serve as a citywide and regional low-barrier homeless shelter without the financial support of the state and surrounding communities. But she said councilors are reluctant to have that discussion before a site is selected.

“I had been supportive of continuing to look at County Way all along,” Cook said. “But given the fact that the DOT is not interested in swapping that land right now, we will look to see if it’s available to us again this fall.”

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