Parking Issues Still to Be Worked Out
At the City Council meeting on September 7, a public hearing was held on the 50% progress plans for the River St. section of the Mousam Promenade, a planned 10-foot wide bike/pedestrian path around Number One Pond. The River St. section is scheduled to be built next year, with the Riverside/William Oscar Emery section scheduled for 2023.
Jared Winchenbach of Gorrill Palmer, the architectural firm in charge of the project, gave a presentation and showed maps of the current state of the design. He explained that the design is complicated by intersections with other reconstruction projects, including work by the Maine Department of Transportation on Winter and Cottage Sts. He said a parking study is underway, which will help determine the amount of parking needed and the best locations for spaces.
The River St. side of the project will include a complete full-depth reconstruction of the roadway from High St. to Spartan Dr. In addition to the 10-foot multimodal path on the pond side of the street, the other side will have new 5 1/2-foot sidewalks. Areas of on-street parking will alternate with landscaped areas planted with trees and ornamental grasses. There will be bump-outs at midblock crosswalks for greater pedestrian safety.
Matt and Mark Rouillard from Central Furniture spoke in opposition to the current design, which eliminates their business’ ten dedicated parking spaces, and replaces them with eight on-street spaces. Mark Rouillard said the store is considerably busier than it was two years ago. “We already don’t have enough parking, less parking is just not an option,” he said, adding that if the plan is approved as is, they would have to move to another location, perhaps out of Sanford.
Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy agreed with the Rouillards that eight on-street spaces would be insufficient. Councilors Luke Lanigan and John Tuttle advocated for switching the 10-foot wide path to the opposite side of River St. in that commercial section, to avoid impacting Central Furniture and potentially other businesses.
Matt Rouillard asked if any consideration had been given to changing the path of the project to go over the bridge on Cottage St., eliminating the section that goes by Central Furniture altogether. Public Works Director Matt Hill responded that the roadway is not wide enough there to make it work.
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio emphasized that the design is not finished yet, and the purpose of the public hearing is to gather input to improve the plan and make it work for everyone.
In a separate agenda item, the Council voted unanimously to enter into a Municipal Partnership Agreement (MPI) with Maine DOT for the River St. section of the Mousam Promenade. For its part, the City agrees to meet certain standards for the construction, and to begin construction within 18 months and finish within 36 months. In turn, Maine DOT will contribute $600,000 toward the construction costs, or about 36% of the total price tag. The remainder will be paid for by the City as part of the Capital Improvements Plan.
Mr. Hill said the City has had successful MPIs with Maine DOT in the past, including Old Mill Rd. last year and Mount Hope Rd. this year.
Mayor Mastraccio stressed that approving the MPI does not mean the Council approves the final design of the project.
Deputy Mayor Herlihy and Councilor Tuttle each recommended not rushing into the project, but instead taking a cautious approach to see what might happen with the Stenton Trust building and other currently vacant River St. properties before finalizing the design. But they both joined the rest of the Council in approving the MPI, which mandates that construction begin within 18 months of the signing of the agreement.