Five towns north of Portland are taking the unprecedented step of banding together to apply for $20 million in federal transportation funds.

Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth and Freeport plan to collaboratively seek funding managed by the planning agency Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, or PACTS.

The towns have tentatively agreed to support two applications: a plan to build a roundabout in Falmouth, at the intersection of Bucknam, Middle and Falmouth roads, and a proposal to implement a short-term plan for connecting bicycle trails in the five towns.

The towns are learning how to cooperate rather than compete for funding, said Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper.

“It’s a good exercise in how we may work moving forward,” he said.

The planned first phase for connecting bicycle trails in the region is a roughly $50,000 project to make minor improvements in all the towns, including adding bike racks, road markings, and signs. It also includes the addition of paved shoulders in sections of Winn Road near the Cumberland and Falmouth town line.

The roundabout in Falmouth would be a much more expensive endeavor, although the town government was closed Friday, and there was no one available to provide the actual cost. It would be located on Bucknam Road near Nina’s Variety.

In an email sent Wednesday to officials in the five towns and the regional planning agency, Falmouth town planner Theo Holtwijk said he hopes the towns’ “groundbreaking” collaborative approach will work as a model for identifying regional priorities.

The five towns form one of four “subregions” established last year by PACTS, which administers federal and state transportation spending in a region that extends along the coast from Arundel to Freeport, and includes the inland towns of Gorham, Raymond, Windham, North Yarmouth and Westbrook.

Last March, the U.S. Census Bureau notified the agency that the population of Greater Portland had exceeded 200,000 people as of the 2010 census. As a result, the agency is required to follow some new rules. One is the creation of the subregions.

The planning agency is now soliciting proposals from municipalities and transit systems for the use of $15.4 million in federal transportation funds, and another $5 million in local funding. Proposals are due on Feb. 7, and final selections will be made in July according to a scoring system.

The scoring system has been changed to give additional points to projects endorsed by towns in a subregion, according to Pat Thompson, a member of the Yarmouth Town Council who represents the five northern towns on the planning agency.

She said it makes sense for municipalities to endorse projects that have a regional benefit. For example, fixing the traffic congestion at the Bucknam Road intersection in Falmouth will benefit commuters who live in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, she said.

“We are all trying to do something that has never been tried before, so we’ll see how it works,” she said.

The city of Portland will apply for $1.5 million to build two roundabouts on Deering Avenue to improve traffic flow near the University of Southern Maine.

Portland will also seek funding to build a 12-foot-wide trail between Harbor View Memorial Park and the Star Match building on West Commercial Street.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 701-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com