PORTLAND, Maine — City and state transportation officials unveiled several ideas they say could help ease congestion along Portland's Commercial Street at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Sixty people attended the two-hour long meeting. 

The strategies that were proposed are the result of a traffic study that's been underway for several months now, as well as public input.

Bruce Hyman, the city's Transportation Program Manager, says there's no way to completely eliminate the congestion on Commercial Street, but they are looking to better manage it.

"We're looking at making the travel time more reliable," he said. "We heard from a lot of fishermen, for instance, that it could take 20 minutes to get from one of the wharves to go get a part for their boat. Other days it might take 40-45 minutes or an hour to make that same trip so we're looking for more reliable travel times."

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Two other goals, Hyman says, are to improve working waterfront access along Commercial Street and enhance multimodal accessibility -- which could pertain to cars, delivery trucks, bikes, and pedestrians.

As part of that, officials are looking to see what kind of bus transit service would work in the future or if the center turn lane should be repurposed into a transit-only lane.

"Could be a human driver vehicle as well as possibly an autonomous vehicle," said Hyman. "There's lots of interest in autonomous vehicles nationally."

Fixing Commercial Street
NCM

In addition, Hyman says the city is looking at different ways of managing deliveries on Commercial Street and making some changes to the traffic signals at Center, Union, and Franklin Streets.

At Tuesday's meeting, members of the crowd asked about other concerns, too -- including parking availability on Commercial Street, particularly during the summertime. 

City staff also responded to several questions about whether having public transportation at all on the street is a good idea, or having a lane for bike traffic is essential to a new design. 

"Commercial Street might not be so bad as a lot of people think it is," Christopher O'Neil of Boones Fish House and Oyster Room said. 

City leaders and consultants will be developing a draft of recommendations due sometime this fall. Final recommendations are expected by the end of the year.