Agency assessing Maine Turnpike in greater Portland

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PORTLAND — A 10-mile stretch of the Maine Turnpike from Scarborough to Falmouth is getting increased attention from the Maine Turnpike Authority.

The first meeting of a public advisory committee conducting a needs assessment of the highway will be held Wednesday, June 28, from 4-7 p.m. at MTA offices, 2360 Congress St.. Public comment will be heard at the meeting.

“This section of I-95 is a major piece of the overall transportation network of greater Portland, providing access to the businesses, cities and towns that form Maine’s primary economic engine,” MTA Executive Director Peter Mills said in a June 14 press release. “The turnpike also links travelers to modal choices like the Portland Jetport, and provides a convenient route for travelers looking to pass through the region.”

MTA spokeswoman Erin Courtney said the agency conducted an evaluation of the highway last year, using data from 2014. Traffic volume on the four lane-stretch from Exit 42 to Exit 53 has increased 3 percent to 5 percent annually since then, she said.

The 19-member public advisory committee includes Greater Portland Council of Governments Executive Director Kristina Egan, Portland Public Works Director Chris Branch, Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore, Westbrook City Councilor Ann Peoples, Portland International Jetport Director Paul Bradbury and state Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland.

Study details can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2rJ46Dq

The MTA has also hired the Westbrook office of HNTB to consult and gather data for the needs assessment. The first portion of the study will look at prior studies and existing conditions, and conditions on Interstate 295 will also be studied.

Existing conditions include traffic studies on peak traffic flow, crash data, and capacity needs. The study will also project how a turnpike connection to Gorham could affect travel. Area natural resources, land use and the availability of alternative forms of transportation, including bus service, are also in the scope of study. 

A second phase in the study will look at alternatives to widening the turnpike, which is required by the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act, which passed in a 1991 referendum.

The committee meetings and public outreach are considered the third phase of HNTB’s work. A second committee meeting has been scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Oct. 18, also at MTA offices. Dates for two more meetings have not been set.

Ultimately, HNTB will prepare a final report with recommendations, projections on future use, and necessary next steps. The consultants are to wrap up the work in early 2018.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The MTA is studying needs on the Maine Turnpike from Scarborough to Falmouth. Public discussion begins at a June 28 meeting.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.