CARMEL, Maine — Continued pleas by the town of Carmel for the state to repair U.S. Route 2 took a new course Thursday when the town installed four road signs urging residents to join the fight.
The signs, which stretch from Route 2’s intersection with Horseback Road to Ye Olde General Store, provide westbound motorists with telephone numbers for Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Department of Transportation.
“IF YOU’RE UPSET ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THIS ROAD!” reads the first sign, with “WANT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT IT!” on the second. The third sign provides phone numbers for “DOT COMMISSIONER” while the fourth is addressed to Maine’s new governor on his first day in office: “CALL GOVERNOR PAUL LePAGE OFFICE 287-3531.”
In November, the town collected 1,800 signatures from drivers asking for the road to be rebuilt, and the petitions were submitted to the Maine DOT. That didn’t work, said Carmel Town Manager Tom Richmond, so selectmen decided to have the signs printed with money from the town’s road maintenance account. Richmond, who didn’t know exactly how much they cost, estimated “a couple hundred dollars.”
“The petitions didn’t do it, so we’re doing a follow-up telephone campaign,” he said. “We want to convince [state officials] that they need to pay attention out here.”
DOT spokesman Mark Latti said petitions, letter-writing and telephone campaigns like this one are nothing new. With about half of Maine’s 3,000 miles of major collector roads ready for reconstruction, complaints come from all over the state, he said.
“We’re very aware of the work that needs to be done on that road,” Latti said, noting that Commissioner David Cole visited the site after last fall’s petition. “The unfortunate reality is that there are many roads like it in the state, and this isn’t the only one in need of repair.”
A spokeswoman for LePage said Thursday afternoon that the administration had no comment. LePage has not yet nominated his transportation commissioner.
Route 2, a major east-west highway through central Maine, runs through the heart of Carmel. Traffic has always been heavy there, but Richmond said there was a major increase recently when a congressional pilot program ended that had allowed 100,000-pound trucks on Interstate 95. Now those trucks are forced onto state highways, a change that was vigorously opposed by the Baldacci administration, transportation groups and the DOT.
“We’ve had a big increase since that program ended,” Richmond said. “We saw very few trucks around here and now they’re everywhere.”
Richmond said Route 2’s deterioration in Carmel is worst at the edges, which are not supported by the same concrete roadbed that’s under the middle. The problem, he said, is a symptom of a decision years ago to widen Route 2 but not expand the concrete bed. Richmond said the DOT repaired a stretch of Route 2 about a mile east toward Hermon about seven years ago, building up gravel on either side of the concrete.
“It’s held up good,” said Richmond. “If only they would do that to the rest of the road.”
Latti said the only solution for Maine’s road maintenance backlog is more funding.
“We’d like to accommodate the towns and repair their roads, but in these times we need to prioritize our funding,” Latti said.
The telephone numbers on the sign for the DOT, 624-3000 and 624-3003, ring to the department’s front desk and commissioner’s office, respectively. The number for LePage, 287-3531, rings to the governor’s communications office.
Asked how long the town would leave the signs up, Richmond said, “until we get a promise that the road can be fixed,” but he acknowledged that may be awhile.
“We might have to change the governor’s name on the last sign before we’re through,” he said.