If the Gorham Connector is constructed and put to use, everyone in the state will lose out in more ways than one.

First, there is the cost, up to $237 million. That’s a lot of money, and it’s on top of the $140 million already being spent on lane widening on Interstate 95. Spoiler alert, none of that money will relieve congestion. In fact, it will likely do the opposite, as proven time and time again in countless U.S. cities. On top of the $340 million total, there is the price of owning a car, which costs the average American $11,000 per year. New car prices are nearing $50,000. None of this is affordable to everyday Mainers. It’s time the state takes these costs seriously, instead of burdening taxpayers with more.

Increased road capacity simply leads to more cars on the roads and does not reduce the time spent in traffic. It is a case of induced demand, where wider roads encourage more driving, more vehicles then fill the roads and the public is asked to fund another road-widening project. The cycle repeats itself to extremes, such as the 26-lane Katy Freeway outside Houston, Texas, which did not solve traffic. St. Louis, Missouri, home to the most highway square mileage per capita in the country, has yet to cease traffic. Here we are again, however, being asked to fork over our tax dollars to an inefficient, ineffective solution to a problem that the state created with poor urban planning and shortsighted infrastructure projects.

Light passenger rail from Westbrook to Portland would cost an estimated $75 million. That’s about $19 million per mile. If a similar cost-per-mile ratio were to be applied to the Gorham Connector, the project would total $115 million. (Even if the cost-per-mile ratio were double the estimated cost of the Westbrook-to-Portland connection, building rail along the proposed Gorham Connector route would still save $7 million.) From Gorham to Portland, the cost of rail would be almost $30 million cheaper than the Gorham Connector, which reaches only to the Maine Mall in South Portland.

Rail helps not only commuters and students, but also those who require vehicles for work, because, unlike road widening, public transit reduces the number of vehicles on the road. Driving a work truck on public roads can be infuriating during peak traffic; I know because I have done so. The same goes for driving in an emergency. Rail would help these alleviate these problems; the Gorham Connector would not.

While less quantitative than the previous points, Maine must still be conscious of its environmental and social goals. The Maine Department of Transportation should keep these in mind before it decides its best solution to traffic is to encourage more internal combustion engines. Part of what makes Maine so special to residents is the nature around us. Let’s not wreck it for the sake of one more lane. Maine’s population is the oldest in the nation, and seniors deserve to have safe travel options.

Transit-oriented urban design boosts economies, reduces emissions and provides public space. There will be no long-term benefit from the Gorham Connector, only sprawl. It’s that simple. Honest Maine people work hard for their paychecks – they deserve infrastructure that uses their tax dollars with vision and purpose, not another wasteful, pollution-filled project.

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