Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Message Board General Discussion › High and State Streets: One-way or two-way?

High and State Streets: One-way or two-way?

John B.
Westbrook, ME
Post #: 2,032
Foe of State and High traffic change asks how walkable city has to be

Standing in Longfellow Square and watching a wave of cars roll up State Street, Brian Peterson imagines traffic moving in both directions.

Brian Peterson stands at the intersection of Congress and State streets in Portland. He opposes the city’s plan to convert High and State streets into two-way streets.

The change is one city officials hope to see, but Peterson sees only trouble.

"It's crazy," he said of the plan intended to make downtown Portland more pedestrian-friendly. "It will shut the city down. Portland constantly is being voted one of the most walkable cities in America. How walkable does it have to be?"

Peterson, a professional photographer who lives in Westbrook, is waging a one-man battle to keep Portland's arterials flowing. He said he represents the view of most motorists in Greater Portland.

On the other side of the issue are city officials and neighborhood groups who see the city's one-way streets as a failed legacy of the auto-centric urban planners of the 1960s and 1970s.

[Read full article]

Peterson has a website, including a page about the High/State street proposal.

Thoughts? You may also vote on a poll­ here on the meetup site.
john b.
Portland, ME
Post #: 550
I can't see either street, in their entirety being viable options for 2-way streets. They'd have to re-design the sidewalks and get rid of parking on the shoulders. High Street between York and Spring Streets is super cramped as it is. The only section I could see working as 2-way is State Street from Congress to The Casco Bay Bridge.
Michie O.
Portland, ME
Post #: 17
I think they should remain one-way, as two-way traffic will make it more difficult and dangerous for impatient motorists to pass slower cyclists (like me on my recumbent trike), and the parallel parking on the streets would need to be removed for safety reasons although I'm dubious about that step ever happening. Portland is better off with these streets remaining one way.
Dan H.
user 72654382
Portland, ME
Post #: 6
I do not think changing either Street to 2 way is necessary or helpful. I believe that the "drivers" of this project are a series of west end city councilors who have to answer to the many pedestrians crossing High and State to and from work, shopping, a night out, etc. who feel unsafe at crossings. They perceive the danger as coming from sheer speed of traffic but I believe that it comes as much, if not more so, from volume.

The arterial built between outer Congress Street and west Commercial Street was intended, in part, to reduce traffic on High and State. I remember councilor Anne Pringle talking about how wonderful it would be to get all of those cars out of the West End and onto an arterial designed more for express traffic than destination drivers. I think this plan has worked somewhat for those coming from SP/Cape to Portland since people heading south will almost always take a right onto Park Ave to Commercial St and head west. Those heading north will still almost always take High St to the Forest Ave ramp of 295. I can think of at least one reason it hasn't happened worked well at all for traffic coming into Portland: If I'm on US 295 and headed to the Casco Bay Bridge any time close to rush hour, I have a choice to get off at the Forest Ave exit and take State Street or get off at the Congress Street exit, travel the slick new arterial by Mercy Hospital, and connect to Commercial St. Having experienced the traffic stacking on Commercial St while waiting to take the ramp by Greybar Electric to get onto the bridge, I usually opt for State St. When they designed the bridge, they fumbled the opportunity to build an overpass to get to that ramp. Now, you wait an eternity while all of the cars leaving Portland heading west on Commercial St stream by. The best they can do now given highway project funds is install a traffic light which will back up traffic in both directions but without which you will continue to have more drivers opting for State Street. In short, just slowing traffic down on State and High using two-way traffic, will not reduce that volume. Now pedestrians would have to look in 3 directions at intersections instead 2.
John B.
Westbrook, ME
Post #: 2,035
Either way, I think they'll both still be difficult for cyclists. A lot of people feel that slowing traffic down a bit will make it easier for cyclists, but I think that also depends on a whole host of other factors such as road width, parking, and topography.

Certainly it would be nice for both cyclists and motorists to be able to go straight up State Street upon exiting the bridge going north into Portland, especially for cyclists going to the West End. Rather than go uphill on High Street just to turn back to the west, I suspect most west-going cyclists in this situation just navigate the intersection as a semi-pedestrian and either ride up State on the sidewalk, or take an illegal left onto the west part of York Street. One day I saw a cyclist on the bridge riding in the tiny strip of pavement between the yellow line and the median in order to keep all the car traffic to his right as he presumably prepared to do one of these moves, I didn't see which. Yikes!!

Though not a bike lane fan, I think the most benefit to cyclists on the uphill portions of either street, either one-way or two-way, might just be a climbing bike lane. Currently, I personally have no moral or practical problem controlling the right lane even uphill, but my very slow speed does make me less comfortable, increases the chance of motorist incivility, and most cyclists won't do it. (And some less fit cyclists would have to get off and walk anyway, but then, they could use the sidewalk for that.) Making the streets two-way may slow down traffic, but it will also actually make it harder for motorists to change lanes to pass me if I'm controlling the lane. So that will not change the fact that most bicyclists will just squeeze themselves to the side. A climbing bike lane will relieve some of that pressure, especially if the streets become two-way, but as with any bike lanes, intersections must be considered. I don't have any hard suggestions without looking it over more.
John B.
Westbrook, ME
Post #: 2,037
Another opinion: A PPH editorial expressed support for making them two-way last week.
Portland, ME
Post #: 5
I agree with John about the bike lanes, having typically the same view of them as he (they are not a neccessry addition, in most instances). But I can certainly see how pedestrian traffic is adversely impacted in the current arrangement. What I don't see is how changing these streets to two-way traffic alleviates anything for pedestrians. What am I missing?
William Thomas H.
Portland, ME
Post #: 1
As someone who only ever walks or rides in Portland, I am pleased that there are people trying to improve the city's non-motorist infrastructures (despite the insistence that Portland is "walkable.") With regards to the High Street/State Street two-way-conversions, the biggest goal is to reduce traffic speed which is proven in two-way streets with on-shoulder parking (as compared to two-way streets with wide shoulders, such as Marginal way - a typically fast stretch of road.) By reducing traffic speeds fatal accidents drop, and that is a fact despite an increased incidence of minor traffic incidents.

Of course, this measure alone won't improve the city's traffic flow or the impact on bicyclists or pedestrians, but it is a start. There are plenty of other areas in need of attention which do more to restrict and endanger pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike (Franklin Arterial, Forest @ Park, Allen @ Washington, Brighton @ Deering...to name a few.) Attention to traffic flow, pedestrian right-of-ways, cycle lanes, improved mass transit, and incentives for local businesses are all necessary components of a cohesive transportation strategy (big picture stuff.) The momentum from a single traffic pattern change could be translated into a region-wide transition in our transportation paradigm...if we're lucky.
user 5414356
Brunswick, ME
Post #: 442
What I don't see is how changing these streets to two-way traffic alleviates anything for pedestrians. What am I missing?

I think the biggest benefit to pedestrians is slowing down traffic. Trying to cross the street mid-block (or even at intersections, considering the way people ignore stop lights) is a challenge because so many people speed on these mini-highways.

Converting the streets to two-way increases "friction" and should lower the speed of traffic.
Lincoln P.
user 12657385
Portland, ME
Post #: 86
There seem to be a variety of competing goals here, and a surprising lack of imaginative solutions being advanced to achieve them. If the idea is to slow down traffic, that can be done crudely or with finesse, but putting in speed bumps, medians, bump-outs from the sidewalks into the middle of the street, recalibrating traffic lights, or -- bane of bicyclists but peculiar pride of Portland -- stretches of cobble that act as rumble strips.

If there is a belief that a series of two-way streets is inconvenient, but that rush hour traffic needs to be accommodated to get people smoothly and efficiently between 295 and South Portland (which should not be the primary function or concern of Portland's West End), they could easily make High Street run different directions at different times of day: SE to NW (ie from the Bridge) during morning rush; NW to SE during evening rush; and one or the other or both the rest of the time.
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