The Maine Turnpike Authority has purchased enough land to build 35% of the Gorham Connector along a proposed route announced this week, but some dispute whether adding a highway is the best way to relieve rush-hour traffic congestion west of Portland.

In the works for over a decade, the regional toll road would be constructed from Maine Turnpike Exit 45 in South Portland to the Gorham Bypass at Route 114 in Gorham, just south of the town center. The first of possibly several public meetings on the proposal will be held in March in Gorham. The date and location have yet to be announced.

The project has been endorsed by the Legislature, the Maine Department of Transportation and the municipalities of Gorham, Scarborough, Westbrook and South Portland, said Peter Mills, executive director of the authority.

The 5-mile connector would cost more than $200 million – published estimates run as high as $240 million – and be funded by toll revenue, not taxes, Mills said. The cost of driving on the connector has yet to be determined, but the project won’t cause a toll increase on the turnpike, he said.

Construction could start as early as 2026 and be completed by 2030. When it’s done, Mills and other proponents say the connector will reduce morning and evening traffic congestion that backs up and slows commuter travel to a snail’s pace along Route 22 and beyond.

“The congestion is staggering,” Mills said. “And now all the shortcuts are jammed up as bad as Route 22.”


Mills said the route identified this week has been designed to avoid and mitigate environmental impacts wherever possible in anticipation of community concerns and reviews by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversee construction in and near wetlands and waterways.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to minimize impacts to Red Brook, (where) there are brook trout,” he said. Red Brook is a tributary to Clarks Pond in South Portland that begins in a wetland area north of County Road (Route 22) in Scarborough.

The connector route passes through a small wooded wetland area on the west side of Smiling Hill Farm near the Westbrook-Scarborough line, beyond the farm and the lumber business, Mills said. The farm’s owners, who had voiced opposition to the connector in the past, didn’t respond Tuesday to requests for interviews about the route.

The route also passes through a large parcel owned by Ecomaine, the regional trash-to-energy incinerator, and a 40-acre swath of the former Gorham Country Club that the authority purchased last year for $1.4 million, Mills said.

“We have spent $4.5 million so far on land for the project, including three houses,” he said. “The land acquired occupies about 204 acres. Under the current alignment, there are five other houses that may need to be purchased, but there could be others depending on the final plans.”



Mills has met with at least 60 property owners who either live near the proposed route or may be affected by the road.

So far, he said, the authority has used eminent domain only once for this project, to acquire a parcel that might otherwise have been developed. All other properties have been purchased by agreement with the owners.

“Nearly all of the nearby owners have been cooperative,” he said. “We don’t anticipate any court challenges.”

Peter Mills, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, shown here in 2021 at the approach to the roundabout at the southern end of the Bernard Rines Bypass on Gorham’s South Street. Robert Lowell/American Journal, file

While Mills and municipal officials described the proposed route as the connector’s “specific location,” public feedback might bring slight changes.

“It could be tweaked a little,” said Tom Poirier, Gorham’s community development director. “We’re happy to be at the point to be getting public input.”

Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall noted that over the past 18 months, meetings have been held with landowners, municipal officials, government agencies, transportation advocates and environmental stakeholders. Multiple memorandums of understanding have been signed, he said.


“Many good early conversations have taken place, and we now look forward to broadening the dialogue,” Hall said.

Despite previous conversations, opponents dispute the need for and stated purpose of the connector, saying it contradicts efforts to encourage mass transit, reduce suburban sprawl and promote transportation with a smaller carbon footprint.

“Building a highway doesn’t solve traffic congestion,” said Jean Sideris, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. “Building roads encourages people to drive and to drive more. You’re simply moving vehicles from one road to another.”

Sideris pointed to the work of the Maine Climate Council and its Transportation Working Group, which set a goal to reduce vehicle miles traveled 20% by 2030. In recent years they have increased, from 13.2 billion miles in 2020 to an estimated 14.8 billion in 2022, according to the council’s December report.

Sideris also noted the results of a recent Rapid Transit Study for Gorham, Westbrook and Portland that was issued in January by the Greater Portland Council of Governments. The study recommends a rapid bus service connecting the three communities, primarily via Main Street, Brighton Avenue and Congress Street.

“Investing in a regional rapid transit network is a key part of Greater Portland’s transportation future,” the study concluded. “Rapid transit is competitive with or better than driving, and convenient for many kinds of trips, throughout the day. Statewide, regional and local planning identifies transit investment as a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled.”


The Portland City Council passed a unanimous resolution in 2022 calling on the authority to halt work on the connector until the study was completed. The city didn’t respond Tuesday to a request for an update on the council’s position.


Mills said the four-lane connector would allow mass transit to travel where it’s now impossible when two-lane roads are clogged. Two proposed interchanges would allow the connector to pass over County Road (Route 22) and under Running Hill Road before connecting with turnpike Exit 45, he said.

“The creation of this road makes additional public transit possible,” Mills said. “The connector itself would not be the cause of sprawl.”

GrowSmart Maine, an advocacy group that promotes policies and projects that balance economic and environmental interests, issued a board position statement on the connector proposal in 2022 that said traffic congestion requires a multiprong solution to multiple longtime causes.

“The (connector) proposal is a long-term investment, NOT a long-term solution,” the board said in 2022. “Maine can do better.”


The board called for land use planning that directs most new development to walkable districts in targeted growth areas and lays the groundwork for more mass transit options.

Following the route announcement this week, GrowSmart’s board will revisit its position to address many unanswered questions, said Nancy Smith, executive director.

“Will it really result in reduced traffic volumes on other roads or will it simply induce more traffic as often happens?” Smith said in an email. “How does additional roadway investment relate to the state’s climate goals? What about the impacts on groundwater and agricultural lands along that corridor?”

A variety of information about the project is featured on, including a background video, FAQs, project updates and a form to submit questions or comments.

The public meeting in March will provide opportunities to learn about the project, ask questions and make comments. It also will be available online for people who cannot attend.

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