History of Franklin Arterial
A Brief History of Franklin Street
The Franklin Street Arterial is currently a major corridor for traffic entering the east side of the Portland peninsula from I-295. Franklin was designed to function more like a highway than other arterial roads on the peninsula.
The original Franklin Street was an integral part of various neighborhoods of the east end of the Portland peninsula. It was a regular two-lane neighborhood street running north-south across the peninsula. The cross streets of Oxford and Lancaster streets had connected East Bayside and West Bayside, with Anderson Lane providing another connection to the east.
On the south side, overlooking Portland Harbor, Franklin bordered the “Little Italy” neighborhood; home for some of the poorest of the peninsula’s residents, but also a vibrant and cohesive neighborhood.
1958 Portland’s Slum Clearance and Redevelopment administration demolished the ‘Little Italy’ neighborhood, which bordered Franklin. The buildings of Vine, Deer, and Chatham Streets, home to 64 families, 28 individuals, and 27 small businesses, were deemed ‘substandard’ and were razed. That year also saw the demolition of the mixed-use area between Lancaster, Pearl, Somerset, and Franklin Streets in another phase of “slum clearance’, making way for the ‘Bayside West’ project. This area included 44 housing units, at least 31 households, and was home to more than 85 residents. Across Franklin St. another 54 units were razed for the “Bayside Park” urban renewal project. This area, now called “Kennedy Park”, had through streets that were truncated in an attempt to limit access to outside traffic. The razing of Franklin Street began in 1967; 100 structures were demolished and an unknown number of families re-located.
Phase One of the original Franklin Arterial plan, as envisioned in Victor Gruehens “Patterns for Progress” is today’s current configuration of 2 lanes Southbound and 2 lanes Northbound, separated by a wide undeveloped median. To promote uninterrupted automobile movement, connections between the east and west sides of Lancaster, Oxford, Federal, and Newbury Streets were severed. The plan called for future high-speed lanes to be tunnelled underneath Cumberland and Congress Streets in the center median, which would allow a non-stop flow of high-speed through-traffic. It was projected that this would be needed by the late 70′s or early 80′s.
For the pedestrian or bicyclist, the road poses severe challenges, and is considered the most significant barrier to the safe and effective movement of pedestrians in the city. Franklin Arterial has never been reintegrated into the fabric of the urban environment. It is a place only for cars. Other than crosswalks at the few intersecting streets, there is no pedestrian, bicycle, or transit infrastructure. The long blocks necessitate travel to pedestrian desire lines, forcing people up to 1200 feet out of their way. Nevertheless, the old cross streets have never died; to this day holes in chain link fences and footpaths worn into the median attest to the local residents demand to cross.
In addition to the physical barriers Franklin poses, it’s configuration presents definite psychological barriers to non-automotive travel. It’s wide footprint and unbuilt roadside present a distinctly non-pedestrian scale. Almost no buildings front current day Franklin; it is the backside of the surrounding neighborhoods. Franklin acts as a clear and distinct end to the texture of the neighborhoods one passes through when approaching the road, creating a significant “border effect”.