Traveling north this weekend? Leave some extra time, but don't be terrified by last weekend's dire reports. Weekend construction will resume on I-295 North at and around the Royal River Bridge in Yarmouth on Friday evening, but traffic snarls are expected to be somewhat more manageable than they were last weekend, when motorists were stranded for up to an hour between exits 10 and 16. And let me tell you, it was not fun. Thank god for The Little Mermaid soundtrack and a coloring book about mythical creatures (car was full of adults, check).
This weekend, paving work is expected to begin again at 9 pm Friday and continue through noon on Monday; but traffic should move "a lot smoother," says Meg Lane of the Maine Department of Transportation. Motorists will be traveling on the newly paved road, meaning that they won't have to come close to a complete stop in order to safely traverse a giant bump on the bridge. "Hopefully folks will maintain a slow speed," Lane says. And, MDOT is putting up more and better signs, to encourage drivers to take alternate routes (like staying on the Maine Turnpike, or switching to Route 1) and allow more time. Small suggestion: Place the warning signs farther away from the project, giving drivers more time to adjust. Also make them neon and have fireworks coming out of them.
Many wondered why this project was happening now. "There was absolutely no need for the MDOT to wait until the height of summer tourist season to perform these repairs," one commenter griped on the Portland Press Herald Web site. "It's almost infinitely moronic," that commenter continued. Dude clearly needs some Little Mermaid in his life. (Let's take a stab at what people would say if the construction had been going on during the week instead. Here's my guess: MDOT cares more about part-time vacationers than about hard-working Mainers who drive to and from their jobs day in and day out.)
In scheduling construction projects, "we rely pretty heavily on [agency maintained] traffic counts," Lane says. That data showed that fewer cars would be affected by weekend construction (as opposed to weekday). MDOT looked only at tourist season (a/k/a summer) because the road temperature must be 50 degrees or warmer in order to pave. They also have to coordinate with other projects that are going on around the state. The crew worked around the clock from 9 pm on Friday to 10 am on Monday, she added.
Speaking of I-295, the city of Portland, MDOT, and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS) will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, July 28, at the East End Community School to discuss Franklin Arterial redesign and bicyclist-pedestrian concerns at Exit 7, between Marginal Way and Back Cove. The meeting is from 5:30 to 8:30 pm and we'll post more about it at thePhoenix.com/AboutTown later this week.