A study is looking at rapid transit bus service linking Gorham, Westbrook and Portland. Contributed / Greater Portland Council of Governments

A stepped-up bus service linking Gorham, Westbrook and Portland could become a reality in five years.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments is studying a proposed rapid transit line that would be operated by Greater Portland METRO.

The likelihood the proposed service will become a reality is “excellent,” Theresa Carr of NelsonNygaard Consulting said last week at a pop-up informational meeting at Riverbank Park.

“I think this is a good line,” Carr said.

Buses would run every 15 minutes with 18 stops between the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham and Ocean Gateway Pier in Portland’s Old Port. Stops would include USM’s Portland campus and Maine Medical Center. The route would run along Gorham’s Main Street, Conant and Main streets in Westbrook and Brighton Avenue and Congress Street to the waterfront in Portland.

METRO’s existing Husky Line with limited stops now serves the three communities and the two USM campuses. Weekdays, the Husky line leaves Gorham 29 times between 6:20 a.m. and 10:10 p.m. but Carr said the proposed rapid transit line would be a “better service” than Husky.


Theresa Carr, a GPCOG consultant, left, chats July 26 with residents at Westbrook’s Riverbank Park about a rapid transit study. Robert Lowell / American Journal

“Should this new service come to fruition, it would likely be integrated into METRO’s service and possibly replace the Husky Line,” Westbrook Mayor and METRO President Michael Foley said Tuesday. “Otherwise the benefit would be increased speed of service and frequency to help users get to the communities of Gorham, Westbrook or Portland in a faster manner than today. Westbrook residents would be able to get to their destinations in a more efficient manner and possibly increase ridership for the future.”

While Gorham now benefits from the Husky Line, “enhancements that provide faster, reliable and more frequent transit will better meet the needs of residents, USM students and our local workforce,” said Gorham Economic Development Director Kevin Jensen, who is a member of the study’s advisory committee.

Additional bus service, Jensen said, is a step toward alleviating traffic on local roads, and encouraging sustainable growth as part of the overall economic region.

“It’s not the only answer to solving traffic issues in our area, but it’s an important part of the overall solution,” Jensen said.

Future rail service has not been ruled out completely, Carr said, but the study found the bus line to be more “cost-efficient.”

“We did consider rail as a mode, including many existing and underutilized or abandoned rail lines, in our evaluation process,” Carr said. “Ultimately the corridors that performed the best were the ones that came closest to the places that people wanted to be, which tended to be on existing roadways. And on existing roadways a bus-based solution is generally more cost-efficient than building new tracks.”


A park and ride lot in Gorham, possibly at USM or near the roundabout that links the Bernard Rines Bypass with Route 25, Carr said, would make the service available to commuters from other communities, such as Limington.

Bus lanes on existing roads to speed up service also are possible, Carr said.

Implementing the new route could cost in the millions, but it’s “too early to speculate,” said transportation consultant Joe Poirier.

The project hinges on federal funding, said Chris Chop, GPCOG’s transportation director, and it hasn’t been determined whether Gorham and Westbrook would be asked to chip in.

The earliest the line could be operational would be five years, Chop said.

“It’s well worth giving it a go,” Westbrook resident Lorje Salamonski said hearing about the proposal during last week’s meeting at Riverbank Park.

For an update, a Rapid Transit Study Zoom meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3. To register for the Webinar, go to gpcog.org and scroll down to meetings and events.

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