Peak season



August in Maine is peak summer.

The traffic is building, the blueberries are ready to be picked and there certainly will be a few of those dog days of August that make everyone forget all about shoveling, shivering and scraping. And don’t look now, but school resumes in just a few weeks.

We all love to talk about the traffic. While our friends on MDI can regale us about bottlenecks, it seems like Ellsworth traffic is busier this summer than last, when Acadia’s centennial was such a draw. Despite the completion of a wider Route 1A/State Street entering the north end of the city, it feels like the new tarmac is already full of cars — all day. Turning, stopping and clogging intersections all the way back to Christian Ridge Road and Route 180, there are just more cars. Who are all of these people, Ollie, and where are they going?

And it’s not just traffic headed to Acadia and MDI, although the caravans of RVs and motor homes headed through Trenton suggest that a national convention will soon drown the island with metal and rubber. Traffic out Route 1 to Hancock and beyond: increased. Traffic to and from Bucksport and Blue Hill: up. People are on the move because they have a renewed enthusiasm for driving, love cheaper gas, or have found out that their electronic screen is a poor substitute for actually enjoying our native outdoors.

Despite a host of MDOT infrastructure improvements to the Ellsworth region over the past few years, the crossroads of Downeast Maine is continuing to see ever increasing levels of traffic — and not just in the summer months. While certainly not at the level of congestion that our visitors endure in their sardine confines at home — think Route 93/Route 128 around Boston — local drivers are experiencing time delays and route disruptions that force many people to plan differently to access work, or recreation pursuits.

The latest MDOT traffic count data also support your gut-feelings about increased traffic. Ellsworth has 10 intersections that are busier than any intersection in Aroostook County. Yet, transportation officials are starting a multimillion-dollar bypass project around downtown Presque Isle — a city with a shrinking population and far less traffic than the Ellsworth/MDI corridor. Is that the best use of squeezed financial resources considering the summer economic engine that drives Hancock County?

While old-time folks used to say that the paper mill towns smelled like money, we need to be patient in our driving, practice common sense and proper planning in our outlook, and look at every kayak/bicycle-laden crossover and camper as “the smell of money.” Jobs, taxes, and payroll are all great benefits that we receive from our visitors. They’re here for just a short time, while we have 12 months to enjoy what they lust to see and experience. We need to remember that we are the fortunate ones.

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