Which Way to Millinocket?

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With apologies to Bert & I, we contemplate Maine’s new highway speed limits.

By Virginia M. Wright

Our friend has a summer cottage out by the crossroads at Higgins Beach, in Scarborough. One day in July, we were on the porch rocking and reading Down East when a Porsche Boxster with out-of-state plates came up the road and went right on through the intersection.

Vroom, vroom!

The driver jammed his brakes on down at the beach, turned around, and came right on up again.

Vroom, vroom!

Way down at the creek, he turned around and came straight on up once more.

Vroom, vroom!

This time he stopped right out front.

“What’s the fastest way to Millinocket?” he called out.

“The fastest way to Millinocket?” we mused. Now that was a puzzler.

The speed limit just went up, you see, from 65 to 70 mph on I-295 from Tukey’s Bridge in Portland all the way to Gardiner, and on I-95 from mile marker 114 in Augusta to mile 126 in Waterville, and from mile 134 in Fairfield to mile 188 in Old Town.

Speed limits also increased on a bunch of roads that connect to I-295, not to mention I-395 in Bangor, where it went from 55 to 60 mph on one small section and from 55 and 60 mph to 65 mph on others.

Then there’s that stretch of highway between Old Town and Houlton where you can rev up to 75 mph, thanks to an act of the Maine State Legislature in 2011.

As if that wasn’t enough to calculate, we also had to consider the reasoning for these changes as explained by Department of Transportation commissioner David Bernhardt: the new limits better match the speeds people are already driving. Then we had to weigh that against Governors Highway Safety Association executive director Jonathan Adkins’ suggestion to the Portland Press Herald: drivers will exceed whatever the posted speed limit is because “they think it’s their right.”

“The fastest way to Millinocket?” we repeated. “Go straightaway to Route 77, go north and . . . well, no . . . .

“Go south along the shore. You’ll come to an intersection near Scarborough Beach and . . . let’s see . . . .

“Then again, you can take the back road that the locals use, get on Route 1, then take that other back road to the interstate, and . . . hmmmm . . . .

“Millinocket . . . come to think of it, you still can’t get there from here.”

Virginia M. Wright is the senior writer at Down East.

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