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Maine Turnpike Authority hopes new projects will accommodate growing traffic

Maine Turnpike traffic was up 5.2% over Labor Day Weekend and up 5.3% for the entire month of August. The increases kept the highway on a pace to see highway traffic this year exceed the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

As traffic rises again, the Turnpike Authority Board was told Thursday that two projects to increase capacity are nearing completion.

Crews are nearly finished creating a third travel lane from the I-295 interchange at exit 44 in Scarborough, to just beyond exit 48 in Portland.

The new lanes will be opened in phases with completion by the end of October, unless weather slows the work.

Testing is also to begin soon on an electronic system that will allow Maine and New Hampshire to convert the breakdown lane on the Piscataqua River Bridge into a fourth travel lane in either direction to relieve congestion.

Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Peter Merfeld told the Turnpike Authority board there's a chance the system will be available for use on Indigenous People's Day weekend in early October, but will definitely be available to help during high traffic times next year.

Executive Director Peter Mills also told the board there are plans to begin a public outreach effort this fall regarding plans for a new turnpike spur from South Portland to Gorham.