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Maine Turnpike Authority’s Portland Area Widening construction in final stages

Maine Turnpike Authority Logo FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 18, 2023
Erin Courtney
CONTACT: Dan Morin (MTA)

Maine Turnpike Authority’s Portland Area Widening construction in final stages

One section with new third lane scheduled to open to motorists this week

PORTLAND, ME — Contractors are finalizing work on the Maine Turnpike Authority’s Portland Area Widening Project and the addition of a third lane, both northbound and southbound, from Exit 44 to Exit 48 on the Maine Turnpike.

After more than four years of complex planning and construction, night crews will be working to restripe the lanes in preparation of opening the first section of the new third lane. This section is scheduled to open to travelers this week. Beginning on Wednesday morning, September 20, 2023, the new third lane will be open from Exit 47 south. On the evening of Thursday, September 21, from 11 PM to 5 AM, Exit 44 will be closed in order to restripe and open the new lane between Exit 44 and Exit 46 before the morning commute on Friday.  On the morning of Friday, September 22nd, the new lane will be open northbound from Exit 44 to Exit 46. The remaining section is anticipated to open later this fall.

 “This is an exciting day in the evolution of transportation in Maine,” said Peter Mills, the Turnpike Authority’s executive director. “We are always responding to capacity challenges as we manage the greatest flow of vehicular traffic that exists in the state of Maine. This project will have a dramatic impact on reducing congestion through this busy corridor.”

The Portland to Augusta extension of the Maine Turnpike opened in 1955.  It was built when the average daily number of cars and trucks on the Turnpike was 2,500. Today’s daily average hovers around 190,000 with many days seeing 60,000 vehicles or more traveling through the Portland mainline alone.

The $146 million master plan for improving this Turnpike section required more than simply paving two new lanes. The most dramatic aspect involved the complete rebuilding of bridges and lengthening of overpasses in four locations—to accommodate the wider highway. In addition, improvements to each of the five interchanges along this corridor were made, including a substantial reconfiguration of Exit 45, the hub of activity for the Maine Mall area. Lastly, from Mile 43 to Mile 49, the median guardrail was replaced with 36” high concrete barrier and a paved median to making it safer to work on disabled vehicles.

“Another reason we widened this section is that we wanted to do an even better job of keeping traffic off of I-295 through Portland,” Mills said. “The Turnpike’s mainline, now wider and more efficient, is designed specifically to handle higher traffic volumes. It’s straighter, access is limited, and it’s the shortcut around downtown Portland,” Mills said.

According to Erin Courtney, public outreach manager for the Turnpike, the numbers on the roadway tell the story behind the widening project. “Since 1947 when the road first opened, Turnpike traffic through Portland has increased 25-fold. Demand surpassed the design of this section some time ago.”

With tourism now an $11 billion contributor to Maine’s economy, the Turnpike continues to be a key player in that industry. And because its operation is paid entirely by user tolls, out-of-state visitors traveling the Turnpike actually pay two-thirds of those tolls each year.

“Maine has increasingly become a very popular place, and the Portland mainline is the passageway for tens of millions of travelers every year,” said Courtney. “The expansion and the improvements we’ve made will make that travel smoother, safer, and more enjoyable for everyone concerned.”