SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The Maine Turnpike is delaying plans to widen a nine-mile stretch of the toll highway from Scarborough to Falmouth for at least two years, an official for the toll highway said.
The plan to add two lanes to the highway is being put off because traffic numbers are down and the need for the extra lanes is diminished, said Conrad Welzel, the turnpike’s head of government relations. Welzel said monthly traffic counts on the turnpike have been flat or down almost all year compared with 2007.
The turnpike authority had planned to begin a study on widening the highway this year in hopes of beginning work in 2012. The study has been pushed back at least two years.
The stretch of the turnpike below Scarborough has already been widened.
The Legislature approved the $75 million widening project and about $75 million in bridge replacements. The bridge work will go on as planned.
Also going forward will be about $20 million worth of work that will widen a stretch of Interstate 295 between exits 3 and 4 in South Portland and renovation of interchanges in South Portland, Portland, Falmouth and Yarmouth, Transportation Department officials said.
But the recent financial turmoil brought into question long-term initiatives that include a proposed commuter rail system from Portland to Brunswick and the reconfiguration of several other I-295 exits in Greater Portland, department officials said.
Welzel announced the authority’s decision at a meeting of the Portland and South Portland city councils with state and federal transportation officials to discuss long-term transportation projects on Monday.