CALAIS, Maine — State construction workers continued to labor on the roundabout, bridge and roads leading to the new border crossing in Calais last week, but at least one area resident had a sense of humor — the roundabout is now nicknamed Gilligan’s Island.
A homemade sign mounted on a stick with the name of the 1960s television show printed in black was stuck into the ground on one side of the roundabout.
When a Bangor Daily News reporter took a picture of the hastily made sign Thursday, workers were putting the finishing touches on the landscaping that soon will be part of the center of the roundabout.
Soon afterward, the sign disappeared.
The nearly completed round-about on Route 1 near Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge is part of highway work being done this year 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; and a new industrial park access road. Also part of the project is a nearly $60 million U.S. Customs facility.
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.
Calais City Manager Diane Barnes said that although roundabouts, or traffic circles, are not familiar signs on Down East roads, they are safe and designed to improve traffic flow.
Barnes said the area leading up to the roundabout would be posted and there would be flashing yellow lights to alert people of the roundabout.
Had the Maine Department of Transportation not designed a roundabout, she said, it would have meant installation of a traffic light that would have caused traffic to back up onto and off the bridge near the customs house.
During the general election last week, Barnes handed out a small pamphlet that looked like a miniature roundabout. The brochure explained that a roundabout is an intersection where traffic flows counter-clockwise around a center island. The Maine DOT and Transport Canada made the brochure possible.
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 border.
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 expected to open in the fall of 2010.
The road and bridge that will be ready by the end of this year will remain closed until the customs house is finished.