Topsham planners support public transportation study letter

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TOPSHAM — The town may use federal grant money to study an expansion of bus services in the area.

The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously supported sending a letter stating that a study of regional public transportation opportunities is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

Jason Bird, senior program director with the Mid-Coast Economic Development District, said Topsham has received a $10,000 Community Development Block Grant, money which is filtered down from federal funds, for the study.

One of the requirements with the funds is a letter acknowledging that the Topsham Planning Board has reviewed the project and deemed it to be consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

The letter will now go to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Bird said Topsham will likely hold a town meeting in October, at which townspeople will vote whether to accept the grant funding. He expects that a final version of the study — to be aided along the way by public input — will be ready by early next year.

The study will in part look into linking bus services in Brunswick and Bath, Bird said, “to create better connectivity, so that citizens that use the services can go from one community to the next for employment (and) shopping opportunities, services such as doctors and dentists, that kind of thing.”

The study will also investigate the feasibility of extending Brunswick Explorer bus services into parts of Topsham.

Bird noted that the possibility of Topsham having its own bus would be further down the road.

“Those systems are very expensive,” Bird said, noting that a Topsham bus “would be an option if ridership dramatically picks up, and there’s a demand for it, but this is sort of baby steps.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.