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Proposed Road Would Ease Traffic Woes in Portland Suburbs

State lawmakers are evaluating a new proposal to ease traffic congestion in Portland’s western suburbs. The Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Thursday heard testimony on a bill that would allow the Maine Turnpike Authority to build a five-mile connector to mitigate traffic jams in the Gorham-Scarborough area.

Rep. Andrew McLean, a Democrat from Gorham, is the lead sponsor of the bill. He says population and new housing units have exploded in Portland’s suburbs as the cost of living in the city has increased.

“The growth in Portland’s western suburbs has been significant. And without improved transportation facilities it has become unsustainable,” he says.

According to some who testified during Wednesday’s public hearing, traveling the 8 miles between Portland and Gorham can take between 45 minutes and an hour.

Turnpike authority Director Peter Mills says a connector could swallow a lot of the traffic currently clogging the older access roads.

“The traffic that is jamming up these roads on Route 22 and 114, Running Hill Road and south Gorham areas, is jamming it up because those roads are not built for it,” he says.

The proposal is backed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the
region, as well as municipal planning officials.

Ways to ease traffic on the access roads from Portland to its western suburbs have been studied for years. However, the turnpike authority cannot build the connector without permission from the Legislature and the Maine Department of Transportation doesn’t have the funding to do it on its own.

McLean’s bill would allow the turnpike authority to borrow up to $150 million to build the connector. Mills says the project could take 4-10 years if it’s approved by the Legislature.