PORTLAND (AP) – Specialized jobs and higher pay have more Mainers spending long hours on the road and commuting to jobs out of state, a new study about commuting trends found.

The study by MassINC, a nonprofit public policy research firm, found that the average commute time for Mainers has increased 29 percent over the past 20 years.

While the average commute time remains relatively short – 22.7 minutes – the trend of longer commutes could be a potential problem.

“We as a region in New England are experiencing pretty substantial increases in commute time absent any growth in population,” said Ian Bowles, president of MassINC and a co-author of the study.

“If these commuting times become a major quality of life issue and people begin to move away, it could cap our economic growth potential,” he said.

The number of Mainers commuting to jobs in Massachusetts increased by 59 percent between 1990 and 2000, the fastest of any other New England state.

Most of these commuters are heading to the Greater Boston area and northeastern Massachusetts, according to Michael Fineman, director of economic and public policy research at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute.

The number of actual people from Maine working in Massachusetts is still relatively small at just over 5,000. But the rate is not expected to slow down, a fact underscored by a statewide commuter and ride-assistance program.

“We do find that there is more and more demand for car pools going down from southern Maine to the Boston area,” said Carey Kish, manager of GO Maine, which arranges car pools for motorists.

Currently, five car pools that travel from Maine to Massachusetts are registered in the program, he said.

The statistics are not surprising to commuters like Michael Conlon of York, who began commuting to Boston when the trade book publishing company he works for, Red Wheel/Weiser Conari, moved to Boston from York.

“I really enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “And frankly, trade book publishing opportunities in Maine or the seacoast area are few and far between.”

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