CALAIS, Maine — The city will soon have a new traffic control device: a roundabout.
City officials say that although roundabouts, or traffic circles, are not familiar sights on Down East roads, they are safe and designed to improve traffic flow.
The new roundabout on Route 1 near the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge is part of highway work being done this summer that includes improvements to U.S. Route 1 between Charlotte Road and Boardman Street; the new bridge that will become the third span over the St. Croix River connecting Calais with St. Stephen, New Brunswick; construction of a new border station connector road; the roundabout; and a new industrial park access road. Also part of the project is a nearly $60 million U.S. Customs facility.
Construction on the $100 million bridge began in 2007. With the opening of the bridge, planned for next year, traffic congestion in the city’s downtown area is expected to be relieved, and the roundabout is expected to help.
A roundabout brings traffic into a circle from separate entrances; the vehicles in the circle have the right of way, while those entering yield to them.
City Manager Diane Barnes said Wednesday that the roundabout will have three entrances-exits: one from Calais, the other from the new bridge, and the third from traffic coming from Route 9.
Barnes said residents should not be concerned because the roundabout was designed to handle large tractor-trailer as well as small-vehicle traffic.
“Based on what the Maine Department of Transportation told me, this works. It’s supposed to make the traf-fic flow very smoothly and fast,” she said.
Bangor put in its first roundabout last year.
Two bridges now connect Calais and neighboring St. Stephen — the downtown Ferry Point Bridge and the Milltown Bridge near the city’s industrial park. With more than 14,000 cars and 800 trucks crossing the two bridges on a typical summer day, the crossings are the eighth busiest along the 4,000-mile U.S. northern bor-der.
When the project began two years ago, it was hoped the U.S. Customs house would be ready by the end of this year, but the General Services Administration ran into problems that delayed construction. The customs house is now expected to open in the fall of next year.
The road and bridge will be ready by the end of this year, but will remain closed until the customs house is finished.