Bill revives plan for Gorham turnpike spur

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Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, is sponsoring a bill that would authorize construction of a spur from this area at the South Street (Route 114) roundabout at the Bernard P. Rines Bypass to the Maine Turnpike at or near Exit 45.

Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, is sponsoring a legislative bill that would authorize construction of a spur from this area at the South Street (Route 114) roundabout at the Bernard P. Rines Bypass to the Maine Turnpike at or near Exit 45.

GORHAM — A proposed legislative bill could be the ticket to ease traffic congestion in the Route 22 and Route 114 corridor that impacts Gorham, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook.

Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, representing parts of both Gorham and Scarborough, is sponsoring a bill that would authorize construction of a turnpike spur to Gorham. McLean, House chairman of the Transportation Committee, expects the bill to be out of the Legislature’s Revisor’s Office next week.

Under McLean’s bill, the Maine Turnpike Authority would be granted permission to build and maintain a spur that links Gorham with the turnpike.

“This bill authorizes the turnpike to move forward,” McLean said.

“The traffic congestion in southern Gorham and northern Scarborough is considered by many to be the worst in Maine,” John Duncan, director of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, said in a prepared statement provided by Gorham Town Manager David Cole.

Michael Phinney, Gorham Town Council chairman, said Wednesday a spur needs to be built to get people to the Maine Mall and to jobs in Portland and South Portland. “Traffic is really bad,” he said, referring to morning and afternoon commute times.

McLean estimated a 5-mile spur linking the Bernard P. Rines Bypass at South Street (Route 114) with the turnpike at or near Exit 45 would cost $100 million and would be a toll road aimed at improving safety and efficiency.

“We need to get the ball rolling,” McLean said.

Cole said the bypass, which opened in 2008, eased congestion in Gorham Village, but didn’t solve the bigger problem for the entire corridor. “It didn’t finish the job,” Cole said. “Now, it needs to be finished.”

It is too early in the process to know what path a spur would take. Construction would hinge on passage of McLean’s bill and a recommendation following the completion of a study. The Gorham bypass came to fruition only after decades of review.

It’s also unclear when the earliest construction of a spur could start. But, “it’s doable” in five years, Cole said hesitantly.

The four impacted municipalities participated in a 2012 study by the Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Turnpike Authority aimed at solving the traffic congestion in the corridor. That study found that land use changes and transit expansion options should be implemented to ease traffic, along with creating more highway capacity by either widening roads or building a new highway.

Cole said the town has agreed to Metro bus service for a trial period, but widening Route 22, for example, would have a significant impact on people, homes and businesses.

Another study will determine a course of action.

The spur is a top priority on the Gorham Town Council’s list of goals. At its meeting Tuesday, March 7, councilors will consider a resolution backing McLean’s bill.

“I think we’re finally ready to move on to the next step,” McLean said.

McLean said Gorham has seen significant growth and Buxton, Standish and Windham are all growing. The growth in neighboring towns leads to increased traffic woes in Gorham.

Phinney said traffic backups on arteries sends drivers seeking relief onto local Gorham roads. The town really needs the spur, he said.

“The next steps in the planning for the corridor will be led by the Turnpike Authority because the authority could finance a toll-funded spur while MaineDOT does not have the resources to finance a major project there,” Duncan wrote.