Gorham turnpike spur hearing set

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GORHAM — A legislative bill introduced by Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, that would allow the Maine Turnpike Authority to build a spur to Gorham goes to a public hearing next week in Augusta.

The proposal is aimed at improving safety and eliminating traffic snarls in the routes 22 and 114 corridor. A toll spur would ease traffic in Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook in addition to South Gorham.

Westbrook Mayor Michael Sanphy said Wednesday a spur would alleviate some of the traffic flow through the city’s downtown and along Spring Street.

“Spring Street is so heavy,” Sanphy said.

The bill would authorize a connector from Route 114 in Gorham to a turnpike interchange.

The public hearing for LD 905, the Gorham Connector bill, will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 23, in the Transportation Committee Room at the State House.

 A spur would likely link the Bernard P. Rines Bypass in Gorham with the turnpike in the area of exit 45, which accesses Maine Mall Road and Payne Road. The bill would allow the Maine Turnpike Authority to borrow up to $150 million to plan, design and build the project.

The Gorham Town Council on March 7 unanimously backed a spur in a resolution.

“Current morning and evening rush hour congestion on key arterials such as Route 114, Route 22, Running Hill Road and Spring Street is probably the worst in Maine,” the resolution said. “Traffic backups of more than a mile are not uncommon.”

Construction would hinge on passage of the bill and results of a study evaluating alternatives.

A few years ago, the Gorham East-West Corridor Feasibility Study, a $1 million dollar study funded by the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Turnpike Authority,  concluded that land use changes and transit options should be implemented along with creating more highway capacity. Expanding capacity, the study determined, could be achieved by widening  roads or building a new highway.

That study was led by a steering committee with officials from the four communities and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System.

The Gorham resolve said the feasibility study found the corridor to be “highly congested with 64 high crash locations and seven intersections operating at unacceptable levels of service.”

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@ keepmecurrent.com.