Portland city councilors want plans of a four-lane highway connecting growing suburbs west of Maine’s largest city to be halted.
The Portland City Council this week passed a resolution calling on the Maine Turnpike Authority to reassess the project and better align the construction of the $220 million Gorham Connector with local and state plans to combat climate change, the Portland Press Herald reported.
City councilors feel that the congestion of the area could be better solved by expanding rapid transit, and are seeking a comprehensive study into how rapid transit between Gorham and Portland would align with sustainability goals in comparison with the Gorham Connector route.
Greater Portland, which includes communities like Scarborough and Gorham, has seen an influx of hundreds of thousands of new residents in recent years, something exacerbated by the increasing unavailability and unaffordability of housing in the heart of Portland. That population growth has spurred traffic congestion on side roads which the Gorham Connector aims to address.
However, there are concerns that adding more lanes would initially decrease congestion, but could encourage more drivers to take to the road and actually increase negative impacts on Portland’s climate goals.
“The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Maine,” Phelps Turner, an attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, told the Bangor Daily News in December, “and to the extent that the highway creates additional traffic, there will be negative impacts with respect to increased greenhouse gas emissions.”
One of the main concerns from surrounding communities is that implementing effective mass transit could take longer to integrate into the city’s current traffic flow than the four-lane highway, affecting economic growth opportunities, according to the Press Herald.