LEWISTON — Although the annual Build Maine conference will be anchored at Bates Mill No. 1 later this week, you may notice a bigger impact on Lincoln Street. 

Starting Thursday, organizers from Build Maine, with help from the city, will create a temporary pedestrian-centered street design on the busy street, with designated bike lanes and piano key crosswalks. 

The Build Maine conference brings together leaders in urban planning, architecture, engineering, local government and more each year to discuss the ways in which cities are designed and improved. It’s the fourth year it will be held in Lewiston. 

On Thursday, the conference begins with a number of paid workshops, including “Safe Streets Tactical Repair,” which coincides with the Lincoln Street installation. Each year, pop-up demonstrations have been part of the conference, testing new urban ideas and getting feedback from the public. 

“We’re always trying to do something that people will find interesting, and that can start a conversation about how we do our work here,” said Kara Wilbur, co-chair of Build Maine. “They’re not easy to pull off.” 

Each edition has featured a similar pop-up workshop. The first time, volunteers made Pine Street more bike-friendly with temporary lanes. In 2015, they narrowed the road around Simard-Payne Memorial Park and test-drove city plows and other big equipment to see how they fared.

Last year, volunteers and demonstrators involved in the conference converted a section of Canal Street into a developed block, with a temporary building facade, food trucks and vendors.  

While the idea to look at how streets are used is nothing new to Build Maine, this year’s workshop comes as Lewiston is still grappling with pedestrian safety issues. It has been a repeated topic for city officials ever since a string of pedestrian fatalities occurred in a one-year span, and multiple intersection improvement projects are in the pipeline.

According to a Build Maine news release, Lincoln Street was “identified by some locals as feeling uncomfortable for walking and biking.”

Wilbur said she received feedback from the Lewiston-Auburn Bicycle Pedestrian Committee and city staff that Lincoln Street would be a good focus for the workshop. Since then, the organization has also discussed the installation with most business owners along the street. 

For the most part, she said, they were interested in seeing traffic slowed along Lincoln Street. Some, however, are concerned that too many changes could result in traffic being diverted in other directions, decreasing visibility to businesses. 

The installation will remain for a couple weeks at least, Wilbur said. The group would like to hear as much feedback on the design as possible, and the group may alter the setup as it remains on the street. 

She said they’ll even be checking in with at least one business owner to see if the traffic pattern is affecting customer numbers. Build Maine will have its own online comment form, but information on how to submit comments will also be provided through the city’s website and the Lewiston Rocks Facebook page. 

According to the news release, the workshop is designed to give participants ideas on how to use inexpensive materials to quickly improve the safety and functionality of streets.

Dave Jones, director of Lewiston Public Works, said protected bike lanes will be installed on either side of the street with a buffer separating bicycles from moving cars. Piano key crosswalks will also be installed to help create more visible crossings for people trying to access the river. Parallel parking will still be available next to the bike lanes on the river side of the street. 

Jones said Friday that he’s interested to see how the pattern works, but doesn’t think it will impact traffic too much. 

“This one is interesting,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the protected bike lanes are going to work. It may be something we’ll be looking at implementing here in the future.” 

Jones said the city has not yet adopted any of the full ideas used in previous pop-up installations, but has installed a series of piano key crosswalks, with more set to go in. 

Thursday’s workshop will feature guests Patrick Kennedy of the New York City Department of Transportation, and Stephen Edwards of Memphis Traffic Engineering. 

Officials from the Maine Department of Transportation and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine will also be involved in the workshop. Both have also recently taken part in pedestrian safety forums on both sides of the river — the one in Auburn scheduled for Wednesday, the night before the installation is complete. 

To make the temporary Lincoln Street project permanent, the city would have to pay for, and eventually construct, the real thing. 

Wilbur said about $12,000 will be spent on the installation, paid for by Build Maine. Build Maine is sponsored by the Congress for the New Urbanism, the Maine Municipal Association, and the Maine Real Estate and Development Association.

The program includes several workshops and a pop-up beer garden in Dufresne Plaza on Thursday, followed by the main program Friday. 

Donald Shoupe, described as a “parking guru,” will headline a long list of speakers Friday. Tickets for the June 9 conference are $75, and more information is available at www.build-maine.com

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One lane of traffic on Canal Street was transformed into a shared street as part of Build Maine 2016, utilized by pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

An installation on Lincoln Street will create temporary protected bike lanes and piano key crosswalks for the Build Maine conference June 8-9, and will remain for a limited time after the event. 


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