LEWISTON — A public referendum on adding bicycle lanes to a repaved Lisbon Street won’t happen this year. Neither will the paving project.

Public Works Director David Jones said Tuesday that the city has simply run out of time to complete the project before the end of the road construction season, thanks to a longer-than-expected public review process.

“We’d started talking about this last fall, and we were hoping to have it settled in January,” Jones said. “And here we are in April, and we’re still talking about it.”

That means the state-funded project — the Maine Department of Transportation is paying for the bulk of the $1.8 million project — will wait until summer 2016. City Administrator Ed Barrett said state officials have said the money will still be available to Lewiston.

“We’ll probably go out to bid on the work near the end of the year, so we can get a good bid over the winter,” Jones said.

That news came to the City Council just as friends and foes of a proposed bike path on the road reached an agreement that would let the project proceed.


Resident Stavros Mendros, who had started a petition to derail the project, said he would let his petition wither if the council agreed to reinstate turning lanes and do away with a proposed bike lane. Instead, councilors could agree to a shared bike-car lane.

Councilors amended the plan more to Mendros’ liking, and he said he would let the petition die.

But the issue remained divisive for the City Council, with Councilors Mike Lachance and Leslie Dubois calling for a public referendum on the future of Lisbon Street.

“At this point, the people of Lewiston deserve to have their voices heard, one way or another, and finally,” Lachance said. “That will answer any questions that remain. Whether I feel that that majority of citizens don’t want bike lanes or some other councilor feels that they do, we do not know. That argument will continue for years. So in my opinion, this is the golden opportunity to get the barometer on what residents want for Lisbon Street.”

City councilors approved the repaving plan for Lisbon Street on March 3. Plans call for milling and resurfacing the street and repairing the sidewalks on either side of the road. Lewiston is expected to pay for about 10 percent of the $1.8 million project, or about $180,000.

The plan includes the city replacing streetlights, adding trees and fixing up the arcade-stairway between Park and Lisbon streets, next to Mother India Restaurant.


But the biggest controversy had been adding a dedicated bicycle lane to the street. No parking spaces would be removed with that work, but turning lanes would be removed south of Pine Street and the car travel lane would be narrowed north of Pine Street.

Councilors narrowly approved that idea by a 4-3 vote and Mendros’ group began collecting signatures hoping to force a public vote on the entire project.

Mendros said that some of his motivation was personal. He was angered by bike lane supporters whom he thought had denigrated senior citizens who need to be able to park close to Lisbon Street businesses.

“So I took it personal, but I’ve gotten over it,” he said. “I vented and I said my peace.”

But Cynthia Robbins of 11 Hall St. said she had signed the petition for a purer reason: She wanted to see a vote. Robbins was dismayed that the petition was simply a political tool designed to change city councilors’ minds.

“That’s not why I signed it,” she said. “I signed it because I don’t want a bike path. I signed it because I want turn lanes.”


Robbins said she drives the road twice each day between her home and her office on Main Street. While the trip home on Canal Street is usually smooth and quick, Lisbon Street is frequently congested with traffic.

Robbins said she wants to be able to travel down Lisbon Street smoothly.

“I’m not going to walk on that road, and I’m not going to walk to work,” she said. “And I’m not going to walk down that road just to go to a nice restaurant. If I want to go to Marche or Fuel or what have you, I want to drive there. Because when I’m done, I want to jump in my car and drive home.”


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