Saco and Scarborough are teaming up to try to convince the Maine Turnpike Authority to consider adding a new interchange in the area.

Officials from both communities say the time has come to take a closer look at how traffic moves through two highly traveled corridors.

The communities each will contribute nearly $7,000 for a transportation study by Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers of Gray. The study will be used by Saco and Scarborough officials to try to persuade the turnpike authority to conduct a more extensive study of the need for a new exit/entrance interchange.

Scarborough’s interest in a new interchange in north Saco stems from the large amount of through traffic that causes congestion at intersections along Route 1, said Town Planner Dan Bacon. Past studies show roughly 30 percent of Route 1 traffic in that area has an origin and destination outside of Scarborough.

“There’s a feeling that some of that traffic could be using the Maine Turnpike if there was access in the right locations,” Bacon said.

Saco officials are looking for ways to deal with the high volume of traffic in the Route 112/Industrial Park Road area of the city leading to the existing Saco interchange, said Development Director Peter Morelli. Traffic frequently backs up as commuters from Buxton, Hollis and other interior towns make their way to the turnpike.

Morelli said it may be possible to consider limited use of the “old Exit 5” now used to access the Ramada Inn. That exit was the city’s only interchange before the new exit and I-195 were built in 1979.

Turnpike authority Executive Director Peter Mills, in a letter to Saco officials, said the authority’s 30-year plan does not allocate money for an additional Saco interchange, but he recognized the Saco region is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state.

“Because the turnpike section from Saco to South Portland is already the state’s busiest highway, it is highly appropriate for local planners to coordinate with MTA and DOT to get a better handle on future growth and begin thinking carefully about where the solutions lie,” Mills wrote.

The most recent interchange added to the turnpike opened in Sabattus in 2004.

The Gorrill Palmer study will begin in July and take eight to 10 weeks to complete, Morelli said. The municipalities will then submit an application for a new interchange to the turnpike authority.

 

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: [email protected]