Safer Streets Ordinance... is it legal and is it justified?

Skip to first unread message

Winston Lumpkins

Jan 30, 2023, 12:51:27 PMJan 30
Hi folks,

Some months ago a few of us met to discuss the issue of trying to address Portland's Arterial Roads.  Because the DOT controls them, and their priorities are car throughput at all cost, something fairly drastic might work, and anything short of drastic is going to fail.  Additionally, during the walk audit last Wednesday we learned that the DOT controls speed limits on all the streets, not just the ones they help pay to maintain, making our goal of "20 is plenty" pretty difficult to accomplish. 

Over a few meetings we came up with a document, authored in large part by PBPAC member Christian MilNeil, which would require any projects the city contributes to to meet certain standards for those arterial roads.  Standards like bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, wider sidewalks... 

It's a radical step, and would involve withholding funds from projects, essentially halting them until the Maine DOT conceded to designing to these standards.  This is not the first time a city has taken this step- Cambridge Mass & Providence RD have also done so, with some success. 

I think it's been necessary, or helpful to wait this long to begin really working on it, as we worked through the Technical manual process, and waited for the draft of the Maine DOT's active transit plan.   

Google document link, PDF attached:

We don't know if it's legal, and what's attached is a preliminary draft, drafted some months ago. Some of you might be able to help with the legal question.... I also wonder if we could address local control of Portland's speed limits with a similar measure, or the same measure? While draft legal language may seem strange (ideally the city would write that if they decide to adopt it) I have heard from Councilors that it's easier to bring something forward if they have imperfect draft legal language.  However distressing that may be to hear, we only have the city attorney's office, no legislative aids. Well, we're sort of volunteer legislative aids I guess.  Or something. 

I think it's time we all saw this, and all considered it.  Perhaps it's time to refine it, and consider when the best time to launch something could be. The timing shouldn't be just up to me- not that it ever was. 


Winston Lumpkins IV (he/him/his)

Chair, Portland Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Safer Streets Ordinance proposal.pdf


Jan 30, 2023, 1:30:38 PMJan 30
This is not going to work the way you want it to work.  The MDOT could care less if the city does not want to fix a road.  They will just spend their money elsewhere.

The MDOT is the bad guy here, you need to change state law, not city ordinaces.  

Steven Scharf

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
To view this discussion on the web visit
Safer Streets Ordinance proposal.pdf

Christian MilNeil

Jan 30, 2023, 3:34:07 PMJan 30
Steven, I think you're aware that MaineDOT is so behind on basic maintenance that it already spends very little of its money in Portland at all even now – there's not really much for them to "take away" from Portland any longer.

Most of our projects get funded from federal and local funding, with nothing from Augusta.

Take a look at the cost breakdown (on page 8 of this PDF) for last summer's repaving of Forest Avenue: $116K from Portland, $197K from the federal government, and zilch from the State of Maine: 

Now, even though MaineDOT doesn't really have any funding to offer, they do meddle in project design with their design standards. What this ordinance *would* do is establish some local design standards to make it clear that safer crosswalks and bike facilities are non-negotiable on these roadways.

Christian MilNeil
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages