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A pilot program will attempt to reduce traffic, improve safety when cruise ships visit Portland

Tourism advocates say cruise ship operations in Portland bring business to the waterfront, but acknowledge that some residents have raised concerns about traffic jams and pedestrian safety when tour vessels are in town.

On Thursday a new pilot program to address those issues was launched by CruiseMaine and Cruise Portland.

Sarah Flink, Executive Director of CruiseMaine, says Port Share Promise aims to balance the needs of the community and cruise ship visitors. And she says public feedback will be collected through a hotline.

"What is really the backbone of this program is a community feedback hotline. This is for Portland, Kennebunkport, and Freeport. That hotline is how we will listen to our community and visitors to improve this program going forward next year and beyond," Flink said.

Port Share Promise is placing traffic safety personnel at key crosswalks along the waterfront to help residents and visitors cross safely and move traffic along. A shuttle will bring visitors to various points in the city.

Bill Needelman, Waterfront Coordinator for Portland, says revenues from cruise ships are critical to the Ocean Gateway, the Maine State Pier, and other harbor-front businesses.

"Cruise ships are currently estimated to generate $3 million for the city, but they also support stevedoring, pilotage, and other harbor services that need the business," he said.

The five-week pilot of the Port Share Promise program aims to manage 100,000 passengers from 49 cruise ships due to visit Portland this fall. Port Share Promise is modeled after a similar program in Juneau, Alaska.