The Maine Turnpike Authority has started a process to relieve congestion between Scarborough and Falmouth that could include widening that section of the highway to six lanes.
The action follows a record year for turnpike traffic, which reached an all-time high of 83.6 million vehicles in 2016, a 10 percent increase over two years. Since 2014, traffic in the Portland area has grown 3 to 5 percent annually, increasing “to the point where safety and mobility is becoming compromised,” the authority said.
In some areas, traffic congestion is already causing problems, and officials expect it will get worse in the next decade, Turnpike Executive Director Peter Mills said on Wednesday.
“We have seen really substantial, rapid growth,” he said.
A newly created public advisory committee charged with assisting the authority in assessing the corridor’s needs will hold its first meeting on June 28. It is open to the public.
“The purpose of the first meeting is to bring people up to speed as to where we see the issues and where we see them getting worse in the next year and the year after,” Mills said.
As the process moves ahead, the authority expects to discuss how it intends to fix the issues. That likely will include widening a congestion-prone section between Scarborough and Westbrook, but also will encompass other solutions, like improvements to highway ramps. A final plan will depend on multiple factors, including a proposal to build a spur highway from the Turnpike to Gorham.
“There are some things we can do to address specific congestion points without having to do the widening,” he said.
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