BIDDEFORD — An engineering firm has suggested the twin cities charge a fee to mill district developers whose projects have significant impact on peak traffic.

Engineering firm Gorrill-Palmer prepared a report of mitigation strategies to accommodate additional traffic that is expected to result from the anticipated development. A representative from the firm, Randy Dutton, gave an overview of the study, which was funded by Portland Area Transit, to members of the Biddeford and Saco planning boards Wednesday night at Biddeford City Hall.

The study factored in anticipated development at Saco Island, the Biddeford mills along Main Street and downtown Biddeford, the former Maine Energy site in Biddeford, and Springs Island in Biddeford.

Any development that generates 100 or more cars on the roadway at peak hours must obtain a traffic movement permit from the Maine Department of Transportation. In order to qualify for a permit, certain criteria must be met.

Dutton said in areas such as downtowns, where action like widening streets can’t be done, there may be some leniency, as long as the developer is making an effort to an agreed compromise. In these cases, changes to potentially decrease car traffic could be made that include public transportation improvements, promotion of bicycle transportation, and sidewalks.

The cost of mitigation to the two cities, to accommodate the potential increase of traffic, is estimated by Gorrill-Palmer to be nearly $2.2 million dollars. This includes road widening and restriping and adding and removing traffic lights.

Dutton suggested the two cities could charge an impact fee to developers in the mill districts with projects that would increase traffic by more than 99 trips during peak hours.

According to the study, suggested development at the MERC site would add 659 trips during peak hours, Biddeford mills would create 1,042 trips during peak hours, Saco Island would add 133 trips during peak hours, and Springs Island would add 173 trips at peak hours.

Factoring the anticipated amount of traffic the proposed developments would cost and the amount of potential mitigation, Dutton suggested the cities could charge developers $1,082 per anticipated increase peak hour trip.

Should the cities decide on an impact fee, the two cities would have to work closely together to decide how the money should be used, said Dutton.

Saco Planning Board member Don Girouard said, he was concerned that a proposed impact fee could incentivize residential development over commercial development. He said current plans for a mixed use redevelopment of Building #4 are heavier on residential than the original plan for the building years ago.

Pepperell Mill Developer Scott Joslin said should the cities decide on an impact fee, it would be “very important” to get the fee structure “nailed down” so that he and other developers could anticipate potential costs.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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