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Greater Portland transportation wish-list tops $850M

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Greater Portland transportation wish-list tops $850M

PORTLAND — The Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System has released a wish-list of projects costing $851 million that could transform the greater Portland area by 2022.

John Duncan, PACTS director, said the 22 investments detailed in the list have "the power to maintain and transform" the area's transportation system. They range from bridge repair to long-term changes to Route 1, Interstate 295 and the Maine Turnpike.

Duncan said PACTS has identified $227 million in available funding. That leaves a funding gap of $624 million to complete all of the projects.

"Whether we opt to fund these improvements through increased property taxes, user fees or other sources, successful completion will not only create jobs, but improve mobility throughout the region," Duncan wrote in the report, titled "22 by '22."

The report can be viewed at http://bit.ly/xE7200.

The PACTS area includes portions or all of 15 communities: Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport, Gorham, North Yarmouth, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Saco, Scarborough, South Portland, Westbrook, Windham and Yarmouth.

"The list is a mix of regional priorities and local priorities," Duncan said.

Duncan said he was prompted to put together the report after thinking about all the studies undertaken by PACTS or the communities involved, as well as the way the economy is affecting transportation projects.

"The money feels like it's getting scarcer and scarcer as the economy struggles and the federal government year by year reduces its transportation funding," he said.

The projects run from pricey – $181 million for a Gorham East-West Corridor study – to smaller projects like a $2 million Falmouth Route 1 plan to create a pedestrian-friendly village center.

The breakdown of recommended investments is $608 million for highway and bridge projects, $36 million for rail, $168 million for transit, $25 million for bike and pedestrian projects, $9 million for placemaking (planning, design and management of public spaces) and $5 million for alternative fuels infrastructure.

Recommended rail investments include $16 million for construction of a "Y" track in Portland and a passing siding in Yarmouth to eliminate a time-consuming back-up move for Downeaster trains traveling north of Portland. Also suggested is $23 million to restore freight rail service between Baldwin and Portland.

The $608 million in highway and bridge investments includes a suggested $180 million to pave and fix 204 miles of collector roads in the PACTS region that link local streets with major highways. A total of $90 million in projects on aging bridges in the region has been proposed by the Maine Department of Transportation, which has not identified a funding source.

According to the list, $97 million in Maine Turnpike projects could include pavement rehabilitation, bridge projects, and modernizing and widening the highway between exits 46 and 48. The projects would be paid for with toll revenue.

Other highlights include:

• A regional bicycle-pedestrian plan that proposes infrastructure improvements at an estimated cost of $15 million.

• An estimated $45 million investment for a new transit facility, replacement of the METRO garage and major upgrade to the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal.

• A suggested $49 million investment to upgrade bus and ferry fleets over the next 10 years.

Nathan Poore, Falmouth town manager and chairman of the PACTS Policy Committee, said he thinks the report is a great way to show there is not enough funding for needed infrastructure projects.

"It demonstrates the amount of infrastructure that is possible in the next 10 years," he said. "It's really about awareness of transportation and the funding needed to support  it."

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or ggraham@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.