The recent discussions concerning building a new toll road between Portland and Gorham raise concerns about Maine’s transportation future. The proposed project is unlikely to relieve traffic congestion and it runs counter to Maine’s climate action goals. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine does not support the project as it is currently proposed.
We understand and empathize with the concerns residents have about increasing traffic congestion between Gorham and Portland, concentrated on Routes 114, 22, and 25. The congestion, and the proposed bypass as a solution to reduce traffic on local roads, has been the subject of studies and legislative directives over many years. The region needs solutions to manage regional growth that both relieve traffic congestion and provide sustainable, efficient, and reliable transportation. However, we cannot simply build our way out of traffic congestion.
A 2012 study by the Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) on the Gorham Connector project concluded “It is important to note that all three categories of strategies – land use, transit and roadway improvement – work together to provide the desired results.” Before embarking on a new toll road project estimated to cost at least $250 million—more than $30million per mile—we should fully realize efforts to manage land use and implement a robust transit plan.
Addressing traffic congestion by shifting vehicles from existing roads to a new road is not a viable long-term transportation solution. Studies and experience have shown time and again that building new roads does not reduce traffic and therefore is not a long-term solution for the region.
We are concerned that the Gorham Connector project as it is currently proposed:
- Will encourage more driving and simply move traffic to the new road—thus providing, at best, only a temporary solution to congestion
- Conflicts with stated efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled as one strategy to meet the state’s goals of reducing global warming emissions by 80% by 2050
- Could harm downtowns and village centers along the corridor by diverting traffic away from service centers and local businesses
- Will contribute to sprawl and unmanaged development
- Will degrade the natural environment
- Will increase pollution and harm public health
If the MTA and local communities continue on the path toward building a new road, we strongly recommend including elements that could decrease the number of single-occupancy vehicles and do more to alleviate traffic congestion in the long term. We urge the planners for this project to consider making commitments to:
- Creating a dedicated multi-use path within the new right of way that crosses Interstate 95, in order to encourage active transportation
- Creating a dedicated lane for use only by transit buses, to prioritize modes of travel other than automobiles
- Improving active transportation conditions on Route 25 and Route 114
- Mitigation investments in open space and conserved lands.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is eager to help identify long-term solutions for the region that alleviate traffic congestion and meet our climate action goals.
Jean Sideris, Executive Director
Jim Tasse, Assistant Director
Summary: The mission of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is to make Maine better for bicycling and walking. We believe Maine will not be well served by the construction of another highway in the Portland region that will degrade the environment, induce more driving, harm public health, and encourage sprawling development in rural areas.