A bypass connector to ease traffic congestion in Scarborough and surrounding communities is being proposed. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — For years, the town of Scarborough has been dealing with increasing congestion on their roads, especially heading to and from the Portland area and the Maine Turnpike. Now creation of a bypass connector is in the works and on Jan. 5, the Scarborough Town Council authorized the town manager to sign a Memorandum of the Agreement, or MOA,  between the Maine Turnpike Authority, Maine Department of Transportation and the municipalities of Gorham, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook regarding the creation of a so-called Gorham Connector designed to ease congestion in those communities.

The new bypass proposed by the MTA would be designed to ease the congestion along the areas west of Greater Portland. The Gorham Connector is a proposed new toll road that would link the Maine Turnpike at Exit 45 to the Gorham Bypass off Route 114 in Gorham. 

Although the exact location of the bypass has not been determined, it’s been determined it would best function if connected to the turnpike or near Exit 45 in South Portland and the southeasterly end of the Rines Bypass in Gorham, a distance of 5 miles, according to the MTA. The new roadway could help the community in several ways, including reducing the peak hour traffic on the state and local roadways. In Scarborough this would include reducing traffic along Routes 22, 114, portions of Running Hill Road, County Road, Payne Road, Cummings Road and other local roads.

Many of those roads had never been designed to accommodate the increasing volume of traffic from Greater Portland, according to the turnpike authority. The tolled and limited access highway connector from I-95 to Gorham has become the best way to find a solution to the chronic traffic congestion in the region. The daily rush hour congestion on Route 114, Route 22, and the Running Hill Road has become one of the worst in Maine. The daily commuter delays tend to be 15 to 30 minutes, and traffic backups a mile long occur daily. Due to the congestion, many Scarborough drivers have become more frustrated with the driving conditions. The proposed bypass would be designed to address the problem of the higher rate of traffic, according to the turnpike authority. 

In addition, reducing congestion on local roads will support the communities’ comprehensive land use goals, reduce vehicle emissions and greenhouse gases, provide economic and community development opportunities in areas previously constrained by traffic congestion and create synergy with transit, bicycle and pedestrian modes. 

On Jan. 5, the MTA discussed how the project will benefit the community and to ask the Town Council to sign a municipal MOA building upon the previous MOA’s as there have been several changes made since the previous meeting.

The MTA previously held a workshop with the Town Council in December to discuss the project.

“When the Maine Turnpike Authority was last here (they presented) a full packet of material that described the history and gave a background on the project,” said Town Manager Thomas Hall. “This project has been (discussed) for decades, but now this most recent focus stands for about 10 years. The point of this meeting is to really just get the band back together, so to speak, to bring us all back around the table. Coming out of their workshop a number of councilors suggested changes. I did offer this up to the Maine Turnpike Authority and they have received those. … I can also report that last evening the council approved this very agreement.”

The 128th Maine legislature will be considering legislation this spring that will give the Maine Turnpike Authority the  authority to analyze and potentially develop a Gorham connector. Public engagement begins this month as does work at the Legislature’s Advisory Committee and technical working groups where members will discuss how to best integrate the road into communities. The findings and questions for these meetings will be posted on interactive public engagement websites and social media. Hybrid public meetings and in-person meetings will also be held. 

Groups involved in the project including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Maine Natural Areas Program, and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

For more information, visit https://www.maineturnpike.com/Projects/Planning-Projects/Gorham-Connector.aspx

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