BANGOR, Maine — Planning on traveling to the Bangor Mall area on Friday to take advantage of Black Friday shopping deals? Here’s a tip: Avoid or minimize left-hand turns.
City Engineer Jim Ring said that while a number of improvements have been made to Hogan Road and Stillwater Avenue, the two main roads in the mall area, traffic is still going to be heavy.
“It may sound silly, but we strongly urge people to think about the stops they have to make and plan ahead,” Ring said Wednesday. “You can’t avoid left-hand turns altogether, but you can minimize them.”
The Friday after Thanksgiving is always one of the busiest traffic days of the year in Bangor and other major commerce centers. All major roads in the city are likely to be busy, Ring said, but Stillwater Avenue — especially now that a new Wal-Mart has relocated there — is expected to be the most saturated.
“We finally have a full five-lane section and some signal upgrades, but it’s going to be heavy, no two ways about it,” Ring said.
Local police will monitor the mall area and assist as needed with traffic flow, according to Bangor Sgt. Paul Edwards.
Not long ago, the stretch of Stillwater Avenue from Howard Street to Hogan Road had just three traffic lights. Now there are seven. Additionally, there are more retail stores on both sides of Stillwater Avenue.
When Wal-Mart moved from Springer Drive to a newer, bigger location off Stillwater, an extension of Hogan Road was created to add another entrance and exit.
That has helped, Ring said, as has adding turning lanes in some areas.
In the future, the city plans to create a new entrance-exit at the southern end of the Bangor Parkade development, which includes Kohl’s, Old Navy, AC Moore, L.L. Bean and other retailers. The extra entrance-exit off Stillwater to Bangor Parkade will only allow motorists to turn right into the development or right out of the development.
But Ring said the biggest problem seems to arise from motorists who want to turn left in some areas, even when there are signs prohibiting such turns. Left-hand turns require crossing two lanes of traffic, which isn’t easy even when traffic is moderate, he said. The city engineer said shoppers who create a loop and stick to it could save a headache.
“If folks are familiar with which stores they want to visit, they will save time and aggravation if they plan ahead,” Ring said.
In Ellsworth, City Manager Michelle Beal said Wednesday that the city doesn’t expect any traffic problems on Black Friday.
Traffic in Ellsworth normally peaks during summer holidays, when tourists descend on Acadia National Park on nearby Mount Desert Island, Beal said.
Traffic in the Beckwith Hill neighborhood, where Lowe’s, Home Depot and Wal-Mart are located, was relatively heavy during this past Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends, she said, but there weren’t any severe congestion problems to speak of.
Wal-Mart, which opened a store on Route 3 in Ellsworth in 1993, recently moved to a new, larger store nearby on Myrick Street. To accommodate development in the area, a new traffic pattern for the neighborhood went into effect in September 2008.
Beal said that along with these changes, the city has coordinated some of the traffic signals in the area to help make traffic flow more smoothly.
“We consider it to have been very successful this past summer,” Beal said of traffic flow on the Beckwith Hill area. “I can’t imagine it would be as busy as this summer.”
A road improvement project on Route 1A north of central Ellsworth has wound down for the winter and also is not expected to contribute to any traffic jams, the city manager said.
BDN writer Bill Trotter contributed to this report.