Road warriors

Sunshine, salt air and traffic — it’s summertime in Maine. The flood of seasonal visitors is a welcome sight to the many business owners and workers who make their living while the sun shines. For those drivers just trying to get from Point A to Point B, there’s relief at hand.

The barricades marking the Route 3 detour in Bar Harbor came down June 20. The three-year, $14-million reconstruction of about four miles of Route 3 is complete. The Maine Department of Transportation’s contractor put a sign up saying, “Thanks for your patience.” The project did require a lot of that, but the results are impressive.

Already more cyclists are making use of the 4- and 5-foot shoulders along the route, and pedestrians traveling to and from town from the Eden Street hotels and College of the Atlantic are having an easier time with the 10-foot-wide multiuse path. Motorists have a pothole-free highway with new turn lanes and improved drainage. Both locals and visitors will benefit.

In Ellsworth, city officials are gathering traffic data and adjusting lights to better shepherd thousands of vehicles through the city’s major arteries, including High and Myrick streets. Part of the strategy is installing 360-degree cameras at all 12 intersections with traffic lights. “It’s an efficient method of detection for traffic signals,” said city Information Technology Systems Administrator Jason Ingalls. “It’s also part of our bigger plan … With this data that we’re collecting we can have new timing plans designed using real-life, real-time data.”

Gone are the days when a human traffic counter had to sit at an intersection counting cars. Also going out of favor are traffic loops, wire coils buried under the pavement that feed information to a light when a car drives over them. The cameras provide more data than the loops and are easier to replace (no digging required), giving the city — and taxpayers — good value for their money.

Mainers have cause to grumble about bumpy roads and bumper-to-bumper traffic, but projects such as those on Route 3 and in Ellsworth show there’s reason for celebration too. With limited resources and an ever-growing list of infrastructure needs, state and municipal officials must continue to prioritize projects and come up with creative solutions. Luckily, even the roughest and busiest roads have at least one thing going for them — they’re in Maine, a place millions of people want to be this time of year.


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