There is good news for the many walkers, runners, and users of wheelchairs and strollers in Portland. The town has plans for another phase of sidewalk improvements along Main Street. Building upon previous town-funded and state-funded sidewalk improvements since 2017, a recent Connecticut STEAP grant (small town economic assistance program) awarded to Portland will allow the town to extend the new Main Street sidewalk approximately one-half mile on the west side of Main Street from Arvid Street to a point near 510 Main Street. Construction is expected to take place during the 2024 construction season. The new sidewalk will be 5 feet wide, replacing the existing, damaged 4-foot sidewalk.
The town was also previously awarded a Community Connectivity grant to provide better accessibility in the area of the Chatham Court apartments. (Photo at left.) This includes a new bus stop and sidewalk on Riverside Street and a short sections of Airline Avenue, Marlborough Street, High Street, and Freestone Avenue (Below is a map showing the larger area of these improvements.) The project will also replace badly damaged sidewalks along High Street going towards Valley View School and Portland High School as well as updating the sidewalk and ramps to be ADA compliant. There will be a redesigned pedestrian crosswalk and an updated signal at the complicated intersection of Marlborough Street (Rt. 66) & High Street. As shown below, this area is also significant because of the possibility of a future extension of the Air Line Trail across this intersection. Construction is planned for the fall of 2023.
And there may be more good news ahead. First Selectman Ryan Curley says the town has applied for another Community Connectivity grant to finish the Main Street sidewalk replacement project from 510 Main Street to Indian Hill Avenue—approximately six-tenths of a mile. Creating safe places for pedestrians is key to improving a community’s quality of life, allowing residents to walk for transportation, to receive the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, and simply to enjoy the historic beauty of our town.
Of course, one concern that comes with sidewalk work in a residential area is that preparation of the sidewalk base can damage tree roots and kill large shade trees that beautify our streets. For example, there is a historic, 100-year-old (or older) pin oak tree at 460 Main Street where the existing sidewalk is very close to the trunk of the tree. The Jonah Center is in conversation with the town to request that this short section be designed to protect the life of this majestic oak and preserve its place in our community for decades to come.