2018-05-03 / Editorial

Saco is growing, roads are not

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

Over the last year or so I’ve talked with many of you regarding the transportation infrastructure in Saco. It is an issue that I’ve probably received more emails, phone calls and messages about than just about any other issue.

It’s regarding the city of Saco’s ability to handle increased traffic flow from new housing developments in North Saco and folks from neighboring communities trying to get on the turnpike through Saco.

It seems like everywhere we turn new housing developments are sprouting up faster than we can keep track. From a housing perspective, it’s very much needed. Housing inventory in the real estate market is very low. There is a high demand right now for housing in the Saco area. That being said, the planning board and others should be cautious about the growth of development at such a rapid pace without fully recognizing the traffic flow issues being created with an increase in population. We are one of the fastest growing communities in terms of population growth in the entire state. Our roads, particularly our network of roads to get onto the turnpike, hasn’t caught up with that growth.

As someone who lived on Garfield Street for many years, I too know how difficult it is and how long it can take just to turn left onto North Street or the bumper to bumper crawl on Industrial Park Road during rush hour in the morning and evening. It feels like taking your life into your own hands sometimes. Having to skirt between cars, slam on the brakes or hit the gas hard. It’s a daily struggle.

There is some good news though: work is being done behind the scenes. Over the past year, Maine Turnpike Authority, Maine Department of Transportation, and the city of Saco have studied various options for dealing with the problem. The multi-year study will come to a close next year according to the director of policy and planning at Maine Turnpike Authority.

This is what he wrote to me when I requested an update on the project: “We agree with you that connections to the west in the vicinity of Exit 36 are a big challenge. The MTA is also concerned with traffic backups that can affect the safety and mobility of turnpike travelers. That is why the MTA has partnered with the city to fund, along with MaineDOT, a city led study effort to see what options are viable. That process that is just getting started, so your timing is good. The city has contracted with an experienced traffic engineering consulting firm, TY Lin (project manager – Tom Errico). Data gathering is underway and the first public meeting is scheduled for June in Saco. The study is expected to last into next year.”

I have also requested the Saco city administrator to keep our legislative delegation informed of developments every step of way, so we can keep you updated and let you know how to make your voice heard effectively throughout the process. It will be important we stay on top of this and make sure we all weigh in on whatever option they deem most viable. I appreciate the city’s efforts in taking a lead on this and I hope at the end of this study we can move forward in funding a fix and improving our long-term infrastructure to handle increased residential and commercial growth.

Because of the timing of this plan, I will request next legislative session to be placed on the Transportation Committee to ensure we have a proactive seat at the table. It’s always helpful to have some leverage when it comes to transportation projects, so having a member of our local delegation on the committee that controls the road purse strings would be a critical asset to our entire region.

As I hear more, I will keep you updated.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president of Saco Main Street. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or follow updates at www.Facebook/JustinChenette.

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