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Gorham Connector FAQs

1.  Hasn’t COVID-19 decreased traffic in the region? Is a new road necessary?

Traffic numbers all over the state have decreased as a result of Covid-19 and the early April 2020 stay-at-home order. The low mark was in early April 2020, when traffic volumes on the Overlap (where Routes 22 and 114 overlap in Scarborough/Gorham) dropped to one-half of where they had been the previous year. But as of February of 2021, traffic had rebounded to about 90% percent of the previous year in the Overlap, and had exceeded 2019 volumes in Cumberland County. As more people are vaccinated, it is generally expected that traffic numbers will continue to rebound. What is unknown is how many people who are currently working from home will continue to do so, even part time. However, since this commuting corridor has been operating over capacity since the early 90s, and residential growth continues strong, the need to increase road capacity remains.

2. Is there a more environmentally sustainable solution than a new road?

There are additional solutions that, together, will contribute to keeping traffic congestion more manageable over the long term. The first is increasing transit opportunities so that people who commute can choose not to drive their own vehicle. For this corridor, the most immediate solution is expanding bus service - a new road would make quicker, more direct bus service realistic since currently buses are subject to the same traffic slowdowns as individual commuters. Second, to help make transit service more effective, land use planning by the communities that includes housing clustered in areas that can be served by transit will make transit more financially viable. These two solutions, combined with either a new road or widening existing roads, were determined to be long-term sustainable solutions by the 2012 Gorham East-West Study. More details on this study are available here.

3.  Is there a vision for this region?

Each of the four communities (Gorham, Westbrook, South Portland, and Scarborough) involved in this project has developed a Comprehensive Plan, which spells out what residents want their community to look like. All four communities’ economic development directors indicated in interviews that in their view, a new road would take commuter and truck pressure off existing state roads, reduce commuter use of residential roads and neighborhoods, and allow safer use of downtowns by bicyclists and pedestrians.

4.  Why can’t the current roads be widened?

The current roads can be widened, and that is one of the options being considered as part of this study. Traffic engineers are looking at expanding to a 4 and a 5-lane roadway – two lanes in each direction, and in some areas, a center-turning lane. Some of the items being considered in terms of pros and cons for all the options (including a new road) are the various effects on people’s homes and businesses, potential environmental impacts, cost, and long-term transportation effectiveness.

5.  How would a new road fit in with the MaineDOT’s Complete Streets Policy?

Toll roads, which are built and maintained by MTA, do not fall under MaineDOT jurisdiction. However, the principle of Complete Streets is based on designing a road that can work for all modes of travel: pedestrians, bicycles, cars, transit, trucks, etc. MTA is looking at how all these modes would travel on a new road and incorporating these considerations into their planning.

6.  Why is the MTA buying up land for this project now?

Development pressures are strong in this region, and MTA is talking with landowners now about buying select parcels of land in order to keep options open for a new road. Once land is developed, it is more expensive - and sometimes impossible - to purchase land for a new road corridor. Purchasing properties now means that should the decision be made to build, a viable route will be available. Should the decision go the other way, MTA would simply sell the land on the open market.
 

1.  Where would a new road be located?

MTA has been looking at various routes. These alternatives were developed based on the desirability of avoiding valuable environmental areas (wetlands, river crossings, animal habitat), homes and businesses, and other potential physical barriers. These alternatives will be narrowed down during the coming months based on these constraints.

2.  Has a final decision been made on a new road? Who makes the decision?

No, a final decision has not been made. The MTA board of directors will make the decision as to whether to move ahead with the environmental permitting process. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection are then tasked with the final decision on whether to provide a permit to build and in which location. This occurs as part of a very specific legal process proscribed under federal and state law.

3.  How much would a new road cost? Would this be paid for with taxpayer dollars?

The estimated cost for a new road is $217 million. The estimated cost to widen existing roads is between $176-$225 million. MTA would pay all costs for a new road from projected toll revenues on the road itself (financed by private bonding), so no public money would be needed. Widening existing state-owned roads would be a MaineDOT expense, paid for with taxpayer dollars.

4.  Would the new road have bike lanes?

If a new road is constructed by MTA, it will be a limited access road and would not have adjacent, unprotected bike lanes on it.  Pedestrians and bicycles are not permitted on any limited access roads as a matter of safety. However, it may be possible to incorporate into the project bicycle, pedestrian and other forms of active transportation separate from the highway.  These will be considered as part of the as part of the public discussion.

5.  Would there be tolls on the road? How much would the toll cost?

Yes, if a new road is built there will be a toll.  Currently, the amount being used for planning purposes is $1.50.

6.  Would there be interchanges along the road?

Vehicles would access the new road at Exit 45 on the Maine Turnpike; it will link to the Gorham Bypass at Route 114 in Gorham. The concept design includes two interchanges that would be located on Route 114 near Hillside Lumber and on Running Hill Road near Target.

7.  Would cash be accepted?

Plans currently include cash being accepted at three locations along the route. 

8.  Is there an estimate of the likely timing of this project?

Because of the time required for planning, design, financing and permitting for a project of this size, it is difficult to estimate a date for the commencement of construction, but it is clearly at least several years from now.  

9.  What would the speed be on the new road?

The concept plan calls for a 60 mph speed limit.
 
1.  How can the public comment on this project?

The public can make comments or ask questions right now via the Questions/Comments box on the project home page (click here). Starting this summer, a major public engagement effort will begin, including input from a community advisory committee, online meetings, and an in-depth public engagement website that provides access to information, feedback and commentary as it becomes available. In-person meetings will also be available if state public health guidelines allow.


2.  I may be affected by a new road close to my house or business, who do I contact?

You can contact the Maine Turnpike Authority's Right of Way department at 207.871.7771 or reach out to Executive Director Peter Mills at 207.858.6400.