CALAIS , Maine -  It was a life-and-death run Friday as Indian Township ambulance personnel rushed a patient to Calais Regional Hospital through the city’ s construction zone.
That zone can take as long as 30 minutes to navigate because traffic often is backed up on state Route 9 and U.S. Route 1 near the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, where construction on the new bridge is under way. The road is a patchwork of holes and mud.
At 10:23 a.m. Calais dispatcher Marcia Hayward received a call from the ambulance personnel who described the situation as “Code K” — a patient in desperate need of emergency help — and warned they did not want to be delayed by idling traffic.
A Code K is “a very serious ambulance call. It means a life-or-death situation,” Calais police Sgt. David Randall said Friday.
The scanner continued to chatter as the ambulance rushed toward the city. The emergency workers told Hayward over the scanner that they had picked up a police escort from the Baileyville Police Department as they continued to speed toward the city.
They were about 10 minutes from the construction site.
Within seconds a Calais police cruiser rushed to the construction site and within minutes the long line of trucks and vehicles was parted.
Then it was just a matter of turning onto South Street and getting to the hospital.
It was unclear, because of confidentiality rules, what the patient’ s condition was late Friday afternoon, but the efforts to get the patient to the hospital as quickly as possible worked.
Randall said that since construction started full scale this summer the Police Department has had similar calls, and the traffic flaggers have cooperated.
“The flaggers are usually very good when they hear sirens about clearing the traffic,” he said.
All the roads into and out of Calais this summer are under construction. In addition to state Route 9 and U.S. Route 1, South Street near Wal-Mart is being worked on, as well as U.S. Route 1 running south through Robbinston.
“Everybody is doing the best they can,” Randall said.
More challenges lie ahead.
The International Festival parade on Aug. 9 will bring as many as 10,000 people into the city and will add to traffic difficulties.
Randall has asked for help. The Washington County Sheriff’ s Department and Civil Air Patrol agreed to help with traffic control over the weekend.
To help resolve some of the problems, Randall recommended that people traveling through the city plan ahead and allow waiting time. He also urged people to be patient.
“Once this third bridge is completed, a lot of those problems will go away,” Randall said. The bridge and new U.S. Customs House are expected to be opened in November 2009.
Noting the coming International Festival, City Manager Diane Barnes also urged people to be patient.
“We just have to deal with it the best that we can,” she said. “It is only 10 days out of a year and the people that come to Calais outweigh the inconvenience.”