An effort to improve traffic corridors through York County is nearing its final phase, with the Route 111/202 corridor and turnpike exchange area in Biddeford the likely projects selected for future action.
The Central York County Connections Study, a two-year joint effort of the Maine Turnpike Authority and the Maine Department of Transportation, expects to issue a final report by early September. Among its recommendations to date is further study on the two most promising projects of the 12 that had been under review: upgrading the regional corridor of Route 111/202 between Biddeford and Sanford and upgrading that section of road with additional turnpike access.
"We can't tell how much benefit there will be yet, but that section of [Route] 111 and the turnpike is the most congested in the entire study area and one of the busiest exits in the turnpike system," says Carol Morris, executive director of Central York County Connections Study. She says projects to ease congestion and improve safety are on the agenda for additional scrutiny. "We don't anticipate needing new roads or widening lanes – the data show that's not needed … but we do need to talk about ways to keep the traffic moving without saying 'no' to development."
In the study group's draft report, some smaller, local projects were recommended for additional review: a new Biddeford highway connection; a southern Sanford bypass; and a Route 99-Route 35 connection.
The group has been charged with reviewing traffic improvements that would enhance economic development and are in synch with local economic development goals. An advisory committee, made up of residents, interested parties and agency staff, gave its blessing to further study of the Route 111 and turnpike interchange because the benefit/cost ratio looked most promising — an assessment echoed by the CYCCS steering committee, comprised of professional municipal and agency staff.
The committees ranked each of the 12 projects based on its potential to create jobs; boost regional economic activity; cost-to-benefit ratio; changes in traffic volumes; impact on travel time and safety; preservation of unique landscape characteristics and environmental impact.
Although the steering and advisory committees concur that there seems to be greatest economic impact from a Kennebunk expressway, the $200 million price tag was intimidating. The group will hold another public meeting in August before issuing final recommendations.
Morris says the group paid particular attention to Sanford, which as a service center draws people to its urban core. "If we could have determined that building a new road would create more jobs cost effectively, that would have been a very good thing for that area," she says. "Unfortunately, building a new road infrastructure would not provide enough benefit [in relation to cost] to make it worthwhile."