After nearly a year of looking for solutions to traffic congestion along the Route 112 corridor in Saco, city and state officials recommend building a new connector road, adding traffic lights and prohibiting turns at key intersections.

The connector road would cost $5 million and carry traffic between routes 112 and 5.

“All these recommendations combined will reduce rush hour congestion on Route 112 and Industrial Park Road, as well as reduce cut-through traffic in the Saco neighborhood,” Carol Morris, a consultant, said in a prepared statement.

The congestion along Route 112 and around the Exit 36 turnpike interchange has been an issue for well over a decade, but has worsened in recent years because of residential development in communities west of the city. The city partnered with the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Turnpike Authority to look for both short-term and long-term solutions to the traffic issues that plague the area.

Traffic backs up at the intersection of Industrial Park Road and Route 112 in Saco. Nearly 20,000 vehicles travel through the corridor each day on average, including more than 18,000 on Industrial Park Road, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The congestion is particularly acute during the morning and evening commutes on weekdays, when cars from Saco and towns to the west head to the turnpike interchange via Industrial Park Road.

Nearly 20,000 cars travel through the corridor each day on average, including more than 18,000 that use Industrial Park Road, according to MDOT. Two intersections along Route 112 – at Garfield Street and Industrial Park Road – are considered by the department to be high-crash locations. From 2015 through 2017, there were 29 crashes at the Industrial Park Road intersection and 22 at the Garfield Street intersection.

During the busiest commuting hours, traffic backs up from Industrial Park Road onto the main line of the turnpike. That’s a safety concern, especially along a stretch of turnpike used by 60,000 to 70,000 cars a day.

The final short-term recommendations from the study, released Thursday by city officials, include installing a traffic signal and dedicated left turn lane on Route 112 at the intersection with Jenkins Road. The report also recommends prohibiting left turns both from and onto Garfield Street and adding a traffic signal at the intersection of Route 112 and Franklin Street.

The report noted that conditions at the Route 112 and Spring Street intersection should be monitored to determine if a traffic signal should be added in the future.

The long-term recommendations from the report focus on modifying Exit 36 to provide full north and south access to the turnpike directly from Route 112 at Lund Road and a new intersection west of the turnpike. Both points would need traffic signals, according to the recommendations.

The study recommendations also call for a new connector road between routes 112 and 5 just west of Saco Middle School.

According to Morris, early estimates from the study show it could cost $820,000 for the Jenkins Road improvements; $90,000 for the Garfield Road turn changes; $820,000 for the Franklin Street traffic signal; $34 million to modify Exit 36; and $5 million to add the connector road between routes 112 and 5.

Morris said city officials, turnpike authority and MDOT will work together to secure funding for these recommendations. None of the projects have been approved or scheduled.

The Saco Traffic Safety Committee will meet in September or October to discuss the implementation of the short-term recommendations. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Correction: This story was updated at 12:15 p.m. on July 26 to correct the name of the person who was quoted from a prepared statement.


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