Study suggests turnpike spur, rail link for Scarborough, South Portland

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GORHAM — An east-west highway bypass, commuter rail line and road widening are proposed to help deal with traffic problems in Scarborough, South Portland, Westbrook and Gorham.

The Gorham East-West Study results were presented at a series of meetings over the past three weeks, explaining several ways to alleviate traffic congestion that has increased as the population in the area has grown.

“Our study shows there’s a lot of growth coming,” study spokeswoman Carol Morris said.

The process began in 2007 when all four towns signed a resolution asking for a study, specifically to address a possible turnpike spur to connect to the newly completed Gorham bypass.

The study projected out to 2035, predicting 79 percent growth in housing and at least 250 new roads in Scarborough. The study cited previous growth, as well as the cost of land in the area, cheap fuel, Mainers’ historical preference for rural living and current land use regulations as the reasons for the dramatic increase.

Morris explained that the study found that widening Route 114 between Gorham and Scarborough would have the same effect as building a highway bypass.

“The turnpike spur would have more environmental impact,” she said. “The widening of (Route) 114 would have more human impact.”

Widening Route 114 to four lanes would affect landowners along the road and particularly any homes close to the road.

The study also suggests towns consider changing their zoning to encourage mixed-use development, which would create jobs close to homes and potentially reduce the number of commuters.

“Most of these towns are already doing this,” Morris said, “but we’ve never come out and said, if you do this, you’ll see a major transportation benefit.”

The Gorham East-West Study will now move toward developing more specific recommendations, such as choosing areas for public transportation infrastructure and stops, and a route for the highway bypass.

The study personnel will also be asking towns to sign a memo of understanding to recognize the information and recommendations presented.

“That’s a big, public piece,” Morris said. “Right now we’re trying to make this all as understandable for people as possible.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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