13 investigates plans to fix traffic problems, transform Forest Ave.

Updated: Monday, July 14 2014, 06:47 PM EDT
13 investigates plans to fix traffic problems, transform Forest Ave. story image

PORTLAND (WGME) - CBS 13 discovers some small zone changes on the busiest street in the state could mean big development. The changes to the zoning on Forest Avenue are part of a bigger plan to transform it.

"Forest is going to transform during the next 10-15 years; that is the next frontier," Portland Director of Planning & Urban Development Jeff Levine said.

The proposed improvements go back to the "Transforming Forest Avenue" plan adopted by the City Council 2 years ago. It would make forest look more like a downtown and less like a suburban strip.

"I think that's going to make it much more of a square and less of a pass through than it is now," Levine said.

New zoning changes go on the books this week. The city says the goal is to increase housing, shopping, and walking.

"The key was to have ground level be active and encourage housing above it," Levine told CBS 13.

Levine says it's a step to make forest more vibrant. Sketches from the study 2 years ago show a tree-lined Forest Avenue, green space, park benches, and lighting.

"I think it's a great idea. Anything they do to encourage people to walk and bike and go door to door and take advantage of businesses," Forest Avenue business owner Jarrod Maxfield said.

Maxfield has had three locations for his computer shop, Necessary Technology, on Forest Avenue.

"Staying in the heart of Portland even with some of the drawbacks of Forest Avenue was the best decision for us," Maxfield explained.

Drawbacks he says like the frustrating Woodford's Corner, which a study found has the highest volume of traffic in the state with about 20,000 cars every day.

But with the zone changes, the city is also working with the Maine Department of Transportation to re-construct that concerning corner. The DOT says it's too soon to share design plans, but recommendations include adding travel and bikes lanes and restricting on-street parking.

"It takes away parking along this strip," Jim Merrill at Merrill Seafood said.

Merrill says he doesn't like the suggestions and questions the plan to make forest something that it's not.

"This isn't like the Old Port section where it's touristy; this is a thru-way a business district, it's going to be too cramped," Merrill said.

The DOT says the Woodford's project will likely start early next year and is budgeted to cost approximately $1.5 million. A public hearing will happen next month to talk about the design. We'll let you know when a date is set so you can let city and state leaders know what you think.

13 investigates plans to fix traffic problems, transform Forest Ave.
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