Residents who live west and south of Portland can get an idea Thursday night of what the future will look like — from a commuter’s perspective — if more land-use policies are made with traffic in mind.

The Gorham East-West Corridor Feasibility Study’s task force will present computer models of traffic on roads leading to, through or from Gorham, Westbrook, Scarborough and South Portland, based on development rules that would encourage more housing units in Portland and clusters of houses and businesses in suburban communities.

The meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Maine Turnpike Authority’s offices on Skyway Drive, near the Portland International Jetport.

The computer modeling is part of a process to determine the best way to reduce congestion in the heavily traveled Gorham-Portland corridor.

Carol Morris, spokeswoman for the task force, noted that new projections of economic development indicate that 70 percent of all new homes and jobs in Maine in the next 25 years will be in eastern Cumberland and northern and western York counties.

That means 35,000 new homes and 25,000 new jobs in the next quarter-century.

That will only strain already-overtaxed roads in the area, she said.

The corridor study began a year ago with $1 million from the turnpike authority and the Maine Department of Transportation. Under Maine law, transportation planners must look at alternatives before considering new road construction, Morris said.

“We’re basically looking at every possible way to ease this congestion,” she said. “Really, the last thing you’re allowed to look at — the last resort, so to speak — is a new road.”

The task force has looked at the possible effect of trying to steer development toward more housing in Portland, where most of the jobs are, and clustering development using a village concept in suburban communities.

The idea is to have homes and commonly used businesses and services near each other so people can walk or drive short distances to get what they need. That would produce a higher density of homes, possibly making public transportation more attractive for commuters, Morris said.

Morris noted that the models envision the clusters for planning purposes only. The task force hasn’t necessarily identified where the village clusters should be encouraged.

Other alternatives to new roads will be considered in a couple of months, she said, when the task force looks at approaches such as widening existing roads, adding turning lanes and signals, and trying to increase the use of public transit.

If the panel determines that a new road is needed, she said, that will be part of the final recommendation expected by this fall, followed by planning a route for the new road.

Michael Phinney, chairman of the Gorham Town Council, said he thinks that in the end, a new road will be needed, but he appreciates the effort to study alternatives.

“They have to look at all the alternatives and opportunities,” he said, but “I wish they could say, ‘Tomorrow, we’re going to start building that new road.’ “

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]