The Topsham Bypass/Connector is a southeastward extension of Maine Route 196 built to provide direct access between I-295 and the Maine coast, and to relieve traffic in downtown Topsham.
Project Type:Connector Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:21,545 Length (mi):2.70
Economic Distress:0.75 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):285 Population Growth Rate (%):0.49
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.07 Market Size:199,636 Airport Travel Distance:22 Topography:10
Region:New England/Mid-Atlantic State:ME County:Sagadahoc & Cumberland
City:Topsham Urban/Class Level:Mixed Local Area:Topsham
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:43.934462 / -69.952856
Initial Study Date:1994 Post Constr. Study Date:2008
Constr. Start Date:1995 Constr. End Date:1998
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1998 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):44,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):62,884,098
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||75.50||51.58||127.08|
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The $44 million ($1998), 2.7 mile Coastal Connector connects Interstate 295 in Topsham, ME with US Route 1 in Brunswick, ME. It is a southeastward extension of Maine Route 196 built to provide direct access between I-295 and the Maine coast, and to relieve traffic in downtown Topsham. The roadway has had significant impacts on new development in Topsham and the redevelopment of both the downtown and the retail area near I-295 as well as the Cook's Corner area of Brunswick. The appraised value of new and redeveloped properties totals more than $120,000,000, which brought in more than $1,500,000 in property taxes to the towns in 2009. Approximately 1,555 direct jobs have been created.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The Coastal Connector, an extension of Maine Route 196, connects Interstate 295 in Topsham with US Route 1 in Brunswick along the Maine coast in Sagadahoc County. I-295 provides direct access to Portland, 27 miles south of Topsham, where it connects with Interstate 95. The Portland International Airport is located 30 miles south of Topsham via I-295. US Route 1 extends the length of the east coast and is a major tourist route. Maine 196 provides access to the west from Topsham. US Route 210 and Maine Route 24 also pass through Topsham.
The Androscoggin River and its tributaries pass through Topsham and empty into the Casco Bay in Brunswick. In the past, Brunswick was a major shipping port, and it continues to be an important location for maritime activities. The Maine Coast Railroad provides limited freight service through Brunswick. The Maine Eastern Railroad provides excursion trips for tourists from Brunswick to Rockland on Saturdays and Sundays in the spring and fall, and Wednesday through Sunday in the summer.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
In 2007, the populations of Topsham and Brunswick were 6,470 and 15,309, respectively, compared to 6,147 (+5%) and 14,683 (-4%) in 1990. These communities have been growing slower than Sagadahoc County and the state as a whole, which grew at rates of 11% and 6%, respectively, between 1994 and 2008. Conversely, the combined employment of the two communities grew from 10,439 in 1994 to 15,504 in 2008 (+48.5%), compared to a 23% employment increase in the county and an 18.8% increase in the state between 1994 and 2008. Brunswick's 2008 per cap income was $24,916, while Topsham's per capita income for that year was $25,357. In comparison, the county per capita income in 2008 was $42,225 and the state per capita income was $36,368.
Because of their locations along the Androscoggin River and its tributaries, Topsham and Brunswick were once manufacturing centers that used water power as an energy source. Both communities were home to several lumber mills, many of which served the boat building industry. The towns also manufactured bricks, granite, other building supplies, pottery, flour, clothing and many other products. By the mid-1900s, the manufacturing sector in these communities was in severe decline and by the 1980s and 1990s, mills along the river stood empty. The lower income of residents of Topsham and Brunswick compared to the county reflect the long manufacturing and fishing history of these two communities, while many people in the southern part of the county commute to professional and service jobs in Portland. However, employment grew by 25% in the two communities between 1996 and 2009, primarily due to increases in tourism and retail expansion, keeping pace with employment growth in the County of 23% between 1994 and 2008. Employment in the state grew at a slower rate of 19% over the same time period.
Brunswick is home to Bowdoin College and the Brunswick Naval Air Station. These two institutions provided stability for the economy as employment decreased in the marine industries. However, the Naval Air Station is being decommissioned and will close by 2011. The base closing will have significant negative impacts on the region's economy.
Topsham is best known as the home of the Topsham State Fair, which brings visitors from all over Maine to the community for two weeks each summer. In recent years, Topsham also has attracted several medical and dental facilities. The region has seen growth in both tourism and retirement communities, which both help to support the area's retail establishments.
The 2.7 mile Coastal Connector extends Maine Route 196 from Interstate 295 in the town of Topsham, Sagadahoc County, to US Route 1 in Brunswick, Cumberland County. The highway was built between 1995 and 1998 for a total cost of $44 million ($1998.) The Coastal Connector was built to provide direct access between I-295 and US Route 1 along the Maine coast, eliminating the need to use local streets between these major roadways. Prior to its construction, traffic moving from the interstate to the coast traveled through downtown Topsham, where afternoon traffic jams led to characterizing the route as "the 30-minute mile."
4.1 Transportation Impacts
In 2008, average annual daily trips on the Coastal Connector at the Brunswick-Topsham town line totaled 21,545. The Coastal Connector has led to significant growth in retail and service development along the corridor (see next section), which in turn has led to growth in traffic beyond what was anticipated. The traffic began to limit the effectiveness of the Connector, which was planned to have no traffic lights and now has five. In response, the Town of Topsham approved a bond issue to construct a $1.5 million frontage road (Monument Place) to serve retail development between Topsham Fair Mall Road (just east of I-295) and Route 201, helping to eliminate left turns from the connector to the mall area. Topsham has a local traffic impact fee ordinance which is helping to pay for this roadway.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The Coastal Connector is credited as the primary driver for the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown Topsham. The developer of Bowdoin Mill Island in downtown, which included the redevelopment of three historic mill buildings, the removal of several others, and the creation of three street front commercial lots, states unequivocally that without the Coastal Connector, his project would not have been feasible. The removal of through traffic from Main Street transformed a previous "wasteland" into a viable development site. The renovated mills house 50,000 square feet of commercial space, including the Sea Dog Brewery and Pub, medical offices, non-profit offices, a real estate office, and several smaller office users. An estimated 120 people work in the mill buildings. The three street front lots have been sold and redeveloped into three separate dental offices employing an estimated 15 people. Another 30,000 square foot office building, called the Red Mill, has been built on the mill site, but due to the current economic downturn, it has yet to lease up.
The Coastal Connector is also credited with attracting a developer to purchase the old gas station in downtown and redevelop the site with 8,000 square feet of office and incubator space employing approximately 40 people. Several historic homes in the downtown have also been converted to offices for lawyers, dentists, doctors, realtors, and other professionals.
The Town also contributed to the redevelopment of downtown, locating a new $13 million town office complex in the downtown, and relocating a dilapidated public works maintenance facility from the downtown, freeing up the space for redevelopment into parking for downtown businesses.
The Coastal Connector is credited with substantial development outside of the downtown along the Connector. Prior to the development of the connector, the Highlands, an assisted living facility with 68 assisted living units, 112 independent apartments, and 20 cottages, had been built northwest of downtown. This facility was accessed from local roads to the east. The Coastal Connector opened up land to the north and also allowed expansion of the existing Highlands community. The developer added 112 cottages to the existing development, and created a new active retirement community, Highland Green, on an 800 acre to the north which had previously been landlocked. The developer worked with the conservation community to create a nature preserve along the river that abuts the property, while also creating a nine-hole golf course. Plans call for 500 housing units, of which 150 have been built to date. New development at the Highlands and Highland Green has increased property values by $96,266,222. The Highland and Highland Greens are now the largest contributors to Topsham's tax base, with 2009 taxes equal to $1,331,115. Approximately 125 people are employed between the two developments, of which about 30 work at development directly tied to the Coastal Connector.
The Connector has also helped spur the redevelopment of the Topsham Fair Mall, and the attraction of several new retail establishments to the area around the mall at the Route 196/I-295 interchange. The original 300,000 square foot mall never thrived and was struggling to retain tenants prior to construction of the Connector. Since the Connector was built, the mall has been revamped, and an additional 600,000 square feet of retail has been attracted to the vicinity of the mall, including several fast food and family restaurants, Target, Best Buy, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Petco. Approximately 2,000 people work at these retail establishments. Approximately half of these jobs can be attributed to the Coastal Connector.
In Brunswick, the Coastal Connector is credited with spurring retail and service development in the Cook's Corner along Route 1 near Route 24. Since completion of the Coastal Connector, the area has attracted a Walmart Superstore, a Loew's, Applebee's, McDonald's, Papa Gino's, a Day's Inn, a Staples, and the Cook's Corner Shopping Center with Shaw's, Border's, and several smaller retailers. In total, over 700,000 square feet of retail and service space with 1,400 employees has been created in Brunswick, of which about one-quarter, or 175,000 square feet and 350 employees, can be attributed to the Coastal Connector.
The Coastal Connector can be credited with increases in property values of more than $100,000,000 (the majority of which is accounted for by the Highlands and Highlands Greens developments) and over $1.5 million in property tax revenues. The project is responsible for the creation of a total of 1,555 jobs at developments in Brunswick and Topsham.
In the mid-1990s, the Town of Topsham adopted a redevelopment plan for the downtown. It identified the need for rebuilding Main Street, redeveloping the mill buildings, improving traffic circulation, providing more parking behind buildings, extending buildings to the road, and removing the gas station at the entrance to downtown. The developer of the mill complex noted that this plan provided a "blueprint" for his development, and gave assurances that the town would support his development plan. The Town adopted mixed use zoning recommended in the plan to allow commercial, retail and housing in the downtown. The village center zoning also has design criteria and limits setbacks.
The Town received Community Development Block Grant funds to rebuild Main Street. The Town also spent $13 million to develop a municipal office complex in the heart of the downtown and $2 million to relocate a public works maintenance facility from the downtown.
Bowdoin Mill Associates
Center for Workforce Research and Information, ME Dept. of Labor
Economic Development Department, Town of Brunswick
Maine Department of Transportation
Mid-Coast Council of Governments
Sea Coast Management
Town of Topsham Planning Department
Town of Brunswick
Case study developed by Susan Jones Moses and Associates