They say history is destiny.

In the early 1950s, a decision was made to route the Maine Turnpike around the Twin Cities rather than through them, or even adjacent to their downtowns.

Now, 60 years later, we are still wrestling with the result of what seems, on the surface, to be a shortsighted decision: It is difficult to reach the downtowns from the turnpike.

Last week, it became completely clear that one proposed solution is no solution at all.

State traffic engineers told Lewiston City councilors that there was simply no point in spending public money to put an exit along the Androscoggin River about a mile from the current Exit 80.

The reason isn’t rocket science. In fact, it is a conclusion that anyone with a stop watch and an automobile could have come to years ago.

We had both back in 2004 and one more thing — a reporter willing to test the proposed locations against the existing ones.

Scott Taylor drove and timed each approach to the city and came up with a startling conclusion: Even if another exit were to be built, Exit 75 in Auburn remained the quickest way to the Longley Bridge for vehicles approaching from the south.

At the time, that accounted for about 17,000 cars coming into the Twin Cities. For southbound cars approaching from the north, a new exit might shave a minute off the trip.

Six years later, the state has determined about the same thing. Even if an interchange were built at mile post 79 or 80, it would still take eight or nine minutes to get downtown.

Here’s the problem: Even if a new exit were a little closer to downtown, cars would have to spend more time on the turnpike to reach it.

So, if our goal is to speed traffic into town, it’s just not going to happen — at least not at a reasonable cost — by merely building a middle exit.

The next question: Could a new exit relieve traffic congestion on any of the major routes into the city, particularly Lisbon Street?

Again, the engineers say, no.

If there is no advantage to using a new exit, either in time or convenience, people won’t use it. As a result, most of the same traffic would remain on the same roads.

Instead, the engineers propose spending about $25 million rebuilding the Exit 80 interchange.

OK. If that will help, let’s do it, particularly since the money seems to be available.

Now, about the original problem? Is it really a problem?

We do not have the noise and pollution of a four-lane truck route running through the middle of town, like Portland.

We have well-planned business parks that have developed at each exit. We have a Walmart Distribution Center that brings in good tax revenue and causes few traffic problems.

And we have more land available for more development.

What are we missing — a bunch of generic big-box stores and chain restaurants that grace every interstate exit between Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon?

It is what it is, and what it is isn’t so bad.

Maybe we should focus instead on cleaning up and speeding up the existing routes into the Twin Cities.

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