The new Central City Plan looks to remedy some of those past mistakes. Namely:
-Reconfigure US 26, potentially eliminating the indirect route through the neighborhood.
-Cap the I-405 freeway to reconnect the neighborhood to downtown.
-Create a park-like connection from the river to the South Park blocks, the so called “Green Loop” project.
-Examine the possibility of removing the Ross Island Bridge ramps and circulation from the neighborhood.
The task force’s timeline calls for a formal study in 2-5 years, but there are plenty of ideas already circulating about how to tackle these issues. My own concept is a combination of transportation investments and redevelopment opportunities. In the map above, I propose moving all US 26 traffic to a direct route within the I-5 and I-405 freeway ROW, two direct access ramps and a surface-level couplet for traffic mixing in and out of downtown. The couplet will eliminate the dangerous and unneeded curved gauntlet that drivers have to navigate daily, and create vastly superior crossings and sight lines for those on foot or bicycle. In-between the two one-way streets, I propose building a freeway cap in order to remove the physical and psychological boundary which is the I-405 trench. The cap should be a combination of parkland and University athletics fields, adding approximately 8 blocks of open space to the Green Loop. With the commuter slog removed from the neighborhood, the old street network can be rebuilt and the vacated ROW can be used for new development and dedicated off-street bicycle and pedestrian paths. I suspect that a plan like this one could come with quite a hefty price tag, but I can’t imagine that any long-term fix will come cheap.Reconnecting South Portland to downtown is extremely important as Portland continues to grow and strive for a livable and sustainable future. Removing the suburban commuter traffic from the neighborhood streets is by far the most important repentance the city could do for the last 80 years of “good ideas at the time.” In time, South Portland could become one of the best 20-minute neighborhoods in town with its proximity to the central city and remaining streetcar suburb assets.
Regardless, this post is simply my two cents.