SOUTH PORTLAND – A new highway linking Gorham with the interstate system is one option included in a study by transportation officials meant to relieve traffic snarls in a corridor through Gorham, Scarborough, Westbrook and South Portland.

Highway improvements would complement other plans, including extended public transportation and construction of high-density development areas in communities to solve traffic woes plaguing the routes 22 and 114 area

The recommendations of the Gorham East-West Corridor Study were revealed in a public meeting Tuesday in South Portland. A written report with recommendations is expected in January.

“We are looking for community endorsement of this report,” Paul Godfrey, a study engineering consultant from HNTB Corp. in Westbrook, said in Tuesday’s meeting.

The Gorham East-West Corridor Study, costing slightly more than $1 million, began in 2009 at the behest of the four communities. The study says the corridor is the state’s fastest-growing residential area and among the worst for traffic congestion.

The study is being conducted by the Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Turnpike Authority and Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, which is a metropolitan planning organization. Community representatives are also on the study team.

Godfrey said the three legs of the traffic solution for the corridor involve land use, transit and highway improvements. He called the solution a balanced approach.

In one road improvement plan, the study has identified an area outlined in a bubble on a map where a new highway could serve the corridor but a path has not been identified.

An alternative highway improvements plan would have a bypass around the overlap area of routes 22 and 114; widen Route 114 in Scarborough to four lanes; and improve connections to I-295.

A bypass around Standish Village is depicted on both highway plans, as are several intersection upgrades in Gorham and Scarborough.

Tony Donovan of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition, citing road maintenance costs, spoke of the advantages of rail service.

“You guys are living in the ’50s and ’60s,” Donovan said.

And Paul Weiss of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition and the Maine Sierra Club advocated high-speed rail access from Gorham into Westbrook and Portland. “True solutions are rail,” Weiss said. “These two plans are insane to me.”

The highway plans are expected to be evaluated in an advanced study taking up to 18 months. Both alternatives could be approved but no construction dates for road improvements have been set yet. Construction investment, Godfrey said, would hinge on zoning land-use changes in communities, allowing high-density development areas.

Transit improvements eyed in the study would extend public bus service into Buxton. The plan would also include reinstituting freight rail service on the former Mountain Division railroad line through Westbrook and Windham to Standish.

Gorham resident Hans Hansen in Tuesday’s meeting advocated a regional comprehensive plan for the corridor be developed.

“The other way, its town against town,” Hansen said.

The study is looking for the communities to identify density development areas, which could have up to five housing units per acre and multiple-story business buildings.

But, Bob Oliver of Gorham feared the study team’s plan would encourage increased development in Gorham, Scarborough and Westbrook.

“I didn’t move there for that reason,” Oliver said.

Godfrey said density would preserve farm fields and open space.

“We’re creating growth areas,” he said.

Godfrey cited downtown Westbrook as a classic example of residential and business mixed use.

But Margaret Oliver of Gorham mentioned William Clarke Drive in Westbrook, which divides residential areas from the city’s business district.

“Have you tried to cross William Clark Drive? That was a mistake,” she said.

Carol Morris, a spokeswoman for the study, said the study includes evaluating safety, loss of rural character and how to shape the region for the future. Morris said in the next 25 years, 2,600 new homes are expected in Gorham and 6,500 in Scarborough.

“Scarborough is the fastest-growing town in Maine,” Morris said.

The study findings say that 70 percent of the growth in Maine by 2035 is projected to be in York and Cumberland counties.

This oblong bubble depicts the area where a new highway connecting Gorham to the interstate system could be built as one possible step under study to help relieve traffic congestion.

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