Local sidewalks take center stage

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

WALKABILITY — Pictured is a sidewalk that’s seen better days along lower Main Street in Bridgton. The condition, width and materials of the town’s existing sidewalks, as well as the condition and location of crosswalks, are being surveyed in a project being done by the Greater Portland Council of Governments, with $10,000 in funding from the Maine Department of Transportation.

Sidewalks in Bridgton — or the lack thereof — will be on the minds of everyone from Planning Board members to school officials next week.

On Tuesday, May 17, children from Stevens Brook Elementary School who have parental permission will walk to the school from the Magic Lantern in a state Safe Routes to Schools “Walking School Bus” awareness event designed to promote safe walking behavior and student independence.

That evening, at 7 p.m., the Bridgton Planning Board will hold a workshop on the lack of sidewalks on Portland Road, with particular emphasis on Hannaford supermarket, where pedestrians must cross over broken wooden pallets or risk getting hit at the entranceway.

Two days later, on Thursday, May 19, at 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to hear the results of a $10,000 Sidewalk Study done for Bridgton by the Greater Portland Council of Governments. There’ll be recommendations given on what the town needs to do to become more pedestrianfriendly, and a mapping tool will be unveiled.

Planning Board member Fred Packard said he was incensed when he saw a pic ture, at an April 16 presentation on the Portland Road corridor, “of pedestrians going down through the Chamber of Commerce parking lot, down a dirt path, over three pallets, and up another side of gravel bank to Hannaford, a $5 million establishment, because there is no sidewalk,” according to the minutes of the April 19 meeting. “I think if that picture were shown to the executives of Hannaford, they might consider doing something for pedestrian traffic,” the minutes quote Packard as saying.

Packard said he would be getting a copy of standards for pedestrian access and landscaping to businesses, and wanted the board to discuss the matter further in workshop. The rest of the board agreed.

GPCOG Planner Stephanie Carver will come to the May 19 meeting with a list of recommendations for future improvements to create better pedestrian connections throughout town. She said she very much wants to hear from residents who use the streets and sidewalks as to where improvements need to be made.

Carver has completed field surveys and measurements of all of Bridgton’s sidewalks, including their width, construction materials used, and state of deterioration, and the location of crosswalks. She surveyed the area from Pondicherry Square to Hannaford, part of lower Main Street and South High Street from Bridgton Hospital to Main Hill.

Carver has invited Sara Cushman, who works for the federal Safe Routes to Schools program through the state Department of Transportation, to speak at the May 19 meeting about the program. Cushman will likely comment on how the students did during their “Walking School Bus” event. Stevens Brook Elementary School Principal Cheryl Turpin will also likely be on hand at the meeting.

Carver’s work has produced a mapping tool of the town’s sidewalk infrastructure that can be used in future planning and capital improvement projects. She’ll use the feedback from the May 19 meeting to prepare a final report, which should be done by the end of June. The report will serve as the basis for future funding requests from MDOT, and Carver wanted to stress that she did not know how soon funding would be available for future sidewalk construction in town.

Alan Manoian, Bridgton’s director of Economic and Community Development, is a strong advocate of sidewalks for making neighborhoods more walkable and reinforcing the town’s New England development pattern, “and presenting Bridgton as an attractive, pedestrian-oriented destination place for our valued visitors and residents.”

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