After decades of studies, talks and mounting traffic woes in town, the Gorham bypass opened Friday.

“It’s a long time coming,” Gorham resident Carl Fyrberg said while sitting on a guardrail following the opening ceremony. “It’s well earned.”

The 3.4-mile bypass skirts Gorham Village with roundabout intersections at Route 114 (South Street), Route 202 (Narragansett Street) and Route 25 (Ossipee Trail). It was designed to divert traffic, including oil and gasoline tankers, away from Gorham Village. The Maine Department of Transportation expected the bypass to handle 7,200 vehicles daily.

During ceremonies Friday, Matt Robinson, chairman of Gorham Town Council, thanked the town’s citizens and neighboring communities for support that made the bypass possible.

“It’s a historical day,” Robinson said.

The honor of the first to travel the highway went to lifelong Gorham resident Bernard Rines, 85, who rode as a passenger in a vehicle driven by his son, Steve Rines. He was an agricultural engineer and a surveyor who had served on the bypass study committee.

A bypass has long been talk of the town. Town Councilor Burleigh Loveitt said that his wife’s grandfather, Austin Alden, then a selectman, laid out a similar path for a bypass in 1952.

Alden’s grandson, John Alden, a former town councilor, was the first bicyclist to travel the bypass Friday.

“It’s about time,” he said.

John Alden and Loveitt served on the bypass study committee with a former town councilor, Phil Dugas. “I’m impressed,” said Dugas, eyeing the highway’s surface.

And, Dugas joked, “It almost goes straight to my house. It’s my own private driveway.”

The $28 million bypass was scheduled to open in June 2009, but Shaw Brothers Construction Inc., of Gorham finished the project months early.

“I think this will be really good for the town,” said Jon Shaw, co-owner of the company, before the ceremony.

The Department of Transportation said the bypass will be closed for several days in the spring to place a top layer of pavement on a portion of the highway. “It’s not a recall on a new car,” Cole said.

Money for the bypass was earmarked by Congress. Jonathan McDade of the Federal Highway Administration said the highway opened just 16 months after breaking ground. Construction began in August last year.

“This is a red-letter day here in Gorham,” McDade said.

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