A crowd packs Shaw Gym in Gorham Monday to hear details about the proposed turnpike connector to Gorham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Smiling Hill Farm, other farm owners, area residents and environmentalists leveled fire this week at the Maine Turnpike Authority project aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in a commuter corridor through Gorham, Scarborough and Westbrook.

The proposed four-lane Gorham Connector would cut across Smiling Hill Farm, taking out 47.3 acres while cutting off 50 more of the 500-acre spread.

Warren Knight speaks to a gathering of Smiling Hill Farm supporters at a rally Monday. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Warren Knight of the family-owned farm with land in Gorham, Scarborough and Westbrook said at a packed public meeting Monday evening that the turnpike’s plan to pass through the farm is “unacceptable to our family.” He has vowed to “fight back” against any turnpike authority plans for his property.

Gorham resident Abby King, at a rally at the farm Monday afternoon, said the connector’s impact on the farm and her town would be devastating.

“I am terrified of what Gorham will become if the Maine Turnpike Authority wins its fight against our community,” King said. “The Gorham divider would be an epic mistake that will change the character of Gorham forever – there will be no coming back from it.”

The proposed 4.8-mile toll road would run from the Bernard P. Rines Bypass intersection of South Street (Route 114) in Gorham to the turnpike’s Exit 45 in South Portland. The bypass roundabout on South Street would be replaced with an intersection. The connector would pass through the former Gorham golf course on McLellan Road to Brackett Road where a bridge would carry traffic over Brackett Road and the Stroudwater River. Another bridge would take the connector over Saco Street near the Gorham/Scarborough line. An interchange would be constructed on County Road (Route 22) at Smiling Hill Farm.


David Kent of Standish, president of Maine Farm Bureau, told Maine Turnpike officials Monday his board wants the connector to avoid Smiling Hill Farm. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Paul Godfrey of HNTB Boston, a project consultant for the turnpike authority, said at the meeting attended by about 300 people that additional highway capacity the four-lane connector would provide is needed to improve safety and ease traffic tie-ups on routes 22 and 114.

Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said at the meeting that his town has “crippling traffic” that local roads were never meant to handle.

Alternative routes avoiding Smiling Hill would run through Wassamki Springs Campground in Scarborough and The Hamlet mobile home park in Westbrook or would take out numerous homes off McLellan Road in Gorham, Godfrey said.

At the rally before the meeting, Knight questioned why farm property should be considered “expendable.”

David Kent of Standish, president of the Maine Farm Bureau with more than 800 members statewide, said the organization’s 20-member board voted last week to support Smiling Hill.

“Do whatever possible to avoid Smiling Hill Farm,” Kent said at the meeting. “Mother Nature is not making any more farmland.”


Gorham farm owner Charles Hamblen urged the turnpike authority to update the 2012 study made for the connector project, saying society has changed since the pandemic, an apparent reference to more people working from home rather than commuting.

A Facebook page created in support of the farm had 3,300 members Wednesday, up from 2,400 a week ago.

Supporter Dave Verrier of Gorham attended the rally at the farm. “My kids worked here,” he said.

Knight said Smiling Hill Farm could continue for another 300 years.

His brother, Michael Knight, who lives at the farm, said, “My family has worked this land since 1720.”

Residents also voiced environmental concerns. The connector would require several state and federal permits, including from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.


Harold Elliott of Scarborough said the proposed path goes right through the headwaters of Red Brook, which runs through Scarborough and parts of Gorham and Westbrook. The brook once deemed “impaired” by the DEP because of degradation from development, but successful efforts have been made to improve it and its habitat, including brook trout.

“You guys are destroying Red Brook,” Eliott said.

The connector’s planned route from South Street to Brackett Road in Gorham would decimate the Narragansett Game Sanctuary, said Kathleen West of Gorham. She said she was concerned about highway runoff and the impact on wildlife.

“We don’t need more roads,” West said.

Paul Drinan of Westbrook, founder of Vision Zero Maine to advocate for safe streets and active transportation policy, said highway expansions are historically harmful to the surrounding communities and the environment, and do not solve the problem of traffic congestion.

“If anything, these projects have been shown to exacerbate the problem and yield undesirable outcomes such as sprawl, pollution, poor health, financial burdens and divided communities,” Drinan said.


Gorham Town Council Chair Suzanne Phillips said Tuesday she has received a few calls and emails with lots of conversations about the connector.

“It is a mix of opposition and support. Mostly questions about the project,” she said.

Godfrey emphasized at the meeting that plans for the connector have not been finalized.

“Those who are thinking it’s a done deal, it is not,” he said.

Land swaps and other measures to mitigate the loss of Smiling Hill Farm land are being considered, he said.

The Maine Turnpike Authority anticipates holding another public meeting on the connector in May.

“We will review feedback we received from last night’s meeting and determine what needs to be further examined before coming back to the public,” Erin Courtney, public outreach and marketing manager, told the American Journal Tuesday.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.

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