“The Universe is expanding. That should help with the traffic.”

Steven Wright, comedian and author

I had to get away from politics because I, like many people, am already sick of the politics of those running for president, and we have over 90 more days to go.

In the past couple of months I have had medical appointments in Scarborough, Portland and at the Togus Veterans Hospital in Augusta. Most of my life I have enjoyed driving no matter what kind of vehicle that I used. Probably the two largest cities I was stationed in were Washington, D.C., and Seoul, South Korea. Traffic in those two cities bordered on chaos, especially at rush hour. It seems like Maine, especially the southern portion, is rapidly becoming the same as residential growth increases.

I mentioned traveling to Scarborough and Portland because during those trips it seems all I saw were new homes under construction. The same is easy to see in Gorham, Westbrook and even Windham. Some say that growth is inevitable, but the side effects it creates are not easily solved. What is even worse is when that construction is going to cause traffic on roads never built to handle it. My wife and I moved to Windham in 1999 without realizing the growth potential the town had at that time. Some short time later, the discussion on having a comprehensive master plan began and, unfortunately, discussion still continues today to finalize it. It’s undoubtedly a continuing thing of motion, because the needs and wants of the town’s people will change over time. But the saddest part to me is that our town fathers at that time did not want Windham, even more so the business district in North Windham along Route 302 to look like Route 1 in Scarborough and Falmouth (at that time).

You know what? I am still waiting for that to change. Yes, some of newer buildings have somewhat of a “New England” look, whatever that is. Yet commercial buildings and home construction get crammed into the craziest places anyone could imagine. What makes no sense to me is the location of some of the new construction just because of it’s effect on traffic. This summer I am doing my best to avoid North Windham on weekends, and if I really need to buy something, I will choose another place with less traffic congestion and other problems. Yet new construction continues and in some places besides Windham I can foresee a lot of traffic problems. With summer road construction in full swing I take time to plan a better route and in the Windham area that’s almost impossible.

My wife drove me to a recent appointment at the Togus Veterans Hospital a week ago Thursday and we both wondered about the road construction on Route 202 from the rotary at the junction of Route 302 to Gray. When traffic flows smoothly sometimes it doesn’t seem like heavy traffic. Then we had to stop because traffic from both directions had to use the same side of the road and there we sat for eternity or it seemed. Then it became obvious how many vehicles really travel on Route 202 during the day. Last Monday I went to Route 115 in North Windham only to run into bumper-to-bumper traffic because of some type of road project being done by someone. I stopped at the business I had planned to because I like that business enough to do that instead of driving straight through and going home completing nothing.

It’s hard to say, but my guess is we arrived at this point because adequate planning didn’t start 50, 40 or even 30 years ago. If constructing new roads isn’t part of the solution of traffic congestion, then the problem will continue. The same goes for new construction, which is a catch-22 for me because I have had many friends involved in that business and their future and investments depend upon it. I am also a strong defender of freedom and believe we have a government far too large and obtrusive in all facets of our lives.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wonders what’s next.

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