PORTLAND, Maine — Maine has approved converting a rail line in Portland into a trail, moving the city one step closer to having a trail that loops around the peninsula.
City officials said the state has agreed to the conversion of the Union Branch Corridor rail line into a multipurpose trail for bikes and pedestrians that would cover a three-quarter mile path. The $1.6 million project is also a part of a larger land deal authorized by the City Council on Monday, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The deal would grant the state agency over the International Marine Terminal on Commercial Street and the Cliff Island ferry landing. In return, the city would receive a 10-acre property and a Park & Ride lot.
The city has no plans for the property yet but it has six months to back out of the deal if it has environmental concerns, the newspaper said.
“We feel this is a valuable asset the city should acquire to influence the direction of development,” said Greg Mitchell, the city’s former economic development director and current consultant.
Mitchell said that both parties will receive equal value out of the land deal.
The state will build the trail to be a 12-foot-wide asphalt pathway with wiring and light fixtures, he said.
“This exchange will complete an important link in the circum-peninsula loop that has become a major amenity for residents and visitors alike,” Zack Barowitz, chairperson of the Portland Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said in a statement.
A City Hall spokesperson said that Portland is still planning and designing the trail for West Commercial Street. This leg could potentially take five years because it will connect the existing Eastern Promenade and Bayside trails.
City Councilor Tae Chong said he supported the land exchange because “it gives us more opportunities to figure out how we’re going to grow our city.”