Thousands who commute daily through the rush-hour congestion in Gorham Village are looking to Washington, D.C., for relief.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the transportation act earlier this month with $11.22 million tagged for a 3.3-mile bypass of Gorham Village. Maine also has $2.5 million set aside for the bypass, which would be a southerly swing around the village between routes 25 and 114.

U.S. Representative Tom Allen of Maine earmarked the bypass money in the House bill. Allen said last week in Gorham that a Gorham bypass would ease traffic flow and improve public safety. He said the transportation act was on a “fast track for passage.”

“This is an important step forward not just for Gorham residents but for everyone who regularly commutes through Western Cumberland County,” Allen said. “This bypass project has been a key objective of Maine transportation planners for over 30 years as a means to reduce traffic congestion in Gorham village center.”

The transportation bill is now in the U.S. Senate where Sen. Susan Collins added $5 million to the transportation bill. Although the Senate doesn’t specifically earmark funds, Collins’ request was considered in support for the project.

“The Gorham bypass would provide much needed relief to the area’s heavily congested roads. I have consistently requested funding for the Gorham bypass in the Senate version of the highway bill, and I will work to ensure that funding for this important project is included in the bill when it is considered by the Senate in the coming months,” Collins said last week

If the senate passes its version of the bill, conferees from the House and Senate would likely meet in May to hammer out a final amount for a Gorham bypass. Following a final passage by both bodies, the transportation bill would require a signature from President George Bush.

Burleigh Loveitt, chairman of the Gorham Town Council, said last week’s official announcement of passage of the House transportation bill was a grand occasion. He said a long ago Gorham selectman, Austin Alden, first laid out a pathway for a bypass in 1952. Since then, there have been 16 major studies for a bypass.

An estimated 38,000 cars each day travel through Gorham Village. And that figure includes many trucks that transport oil, gasoline and other hazardous materials. A bypass would improve public safety. Loveitt said the traffic is using the same corner in the village intersection of routes 25 and 114 that wagons used in early Gorham days.

John Duncan of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Study (PACTS) said last week that a survey of businesses in Gorham indicated that there was too much traffic. Sara Littlefield, owner of Gorham Grind, thought a bypass would help her business because customers now find it difficult to pull out of the parking lot and many have to drive around the block to get in.

Gorham Grind, a coffee shop, is located on South Street in the heart of the intersection in Gorham Village. From 3 to 6 p.m., traffic is backed up a mile down South Street from the traffic light in the square, said Littlefield.

“Traffic is very bad. Rush hour is crazy,” Littlefield said.

Sabrina Thiemke, who lives on State Street just off the village square, is a partner in the Art Guru in a mall on Main Street. “Customers who live in Portland don’t want to wait an hour in traffic,” Thiemke said. “It should take 20 minutes to get to Gorham. The traffic is so bad.”

Littlefield and Thiemke agreed a bypass would make Gorham Village safer for pedestrian traffic. Thiemke said it takes 10 minutes to cross the intersection on foot.

Littlefield said many of the vehicles going through the intersection are 18-wheelers. She said re-routing the trucks would also lead to a cleaner village.

One of the thousands of commuters, Earl Miller hopes for a bypass, too. Miller, who owns a computer repair service, uses back roads to avoid rush-hour traffic. But Miller, who lives off Cressey Road, said it sometimes takes him 10 minutes to get from his driveway to a stop sign, which he could hit with a thrown rock. He’s frustrated and has considered moving out of Gorham.

“Where do we live, L.A.,” he asked.

Miller said a bypass would be his dream come true. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.

A bypass wouldn’t help Harold Bean, who lives at the foot of Brandy Brook Hill. His house is in the area where a proposed bypass would intersect with Route 25. He estimated as many as 25,000 cars a day pass by his home now, and the cars would still pass by his home to enter or exit a bypass. He said a bypass wouldn’t alter his driving a bit.

But he said the town needed it badly. “I’ve seen traffic backed up from the square to Brandy Brook Hill,” he said.

One of the commuters often stuck in that morning traffic on Route 25 near Bean’s house is Rhonda Warren, who is secretary for the Gorham school superintendent. She said her morning commute from Steep Falls to Gorham should be 20 minutes, but it sometimes takes an hour.

Warren sometimes sits for 30 to 40 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic. “It would certainly be helpful to me,” she said.

In the evening drive home, she takes back roads. “I go around Robin Hood’s barn,” she said about avoiding the village traffic congestion.

Dairy farmer Carroll Young, 80, of Flaggy Meadow Road said a bypass might pass through a meadow on the easterly side of his farm but wouldn’t take out his buildings. “It wouldn’t put me out of business,” he said.

Young believes it would be at least 10 years before a bypass gets built. “I don’t expect to see it in my time,” he said.

But Duncan said that construction could begin in 2008.

Not everyone in Gorham believes a bypass is the best route to go to solve traffic issues. Inger Cyr, who lives on Flaggy Meadow Road, is an advocate of a better transportation system. She said a bypass doesn’t take cars off the road; it just re-routes them.

Cyr, who would have a bypass bridge for a new neighbor, worries about the impact a bypass would have on deer and turkeys that she now sees in her backyard. She’s also hoping that it doesn’t affect the value of her home.

The bypass would take out 10 to 12 homes, and acquisition of a right-of-way is raising worries. Wilbur Hansen wasn’t sure last week whether a bypass would slice through his 100-acre farm on Waterhouse Road. He’s worried about compensation for his property, and he fears a bypass would devalue the rest of his land.

“I hope they don’t get the money, but I’m being selfish,” he said.

Hansen believes a southerly bypass would create more of a bottleneck at the intersection of South Street and Route 22. “I don’t agree with dumping out on South Street. It’s not a good plan,” he said.

Jeff O’Donal of O’Donal’s Nurseries has similar fears. O’Donal said that just a southerly bypass of Gorham Village would add traffic to the area in South Gorham where routes 22 and 114 overlap. “It will impact us horribly,” he said. ‘They’re moving the problem to another part of town.”

O’Donal said a bypass is a good idea to help the village but felt an upgrade of the overlap area in South Gorham was needed. “I think we’ve been forgotten here,” he said.

The project manager, Ray Faucher of Maine’s Department of Transportation, said the state has nearly $2.5 million set aside for the Gorham bypass to be used along with federal money. Faucher estimated that the bypass would cost $11 to 12 million if built today. He said the project could cost $13 to 15 million or more in two or three years. “It’s a moving target,” Faucher said about a bypass construction cost.

Maine Commissioner of Transportation David Cole said in Gorham last week that the $11.2 million would pay for the bulk of the southerly bypass. It wouldn’t fund a northerly Gorham bypass, which is stalled.

Congress hasn’t passed a transportation bill for two years. Last year, Allen had asked for $9.6 million for bypass funding.

A proposed route for the Gorham bypass