DEXTER, Maine — Visitors traveling Route 7 may think they’ve reached a war zone when they arrive at Spring Street in Dexter, a major artery from Interstate 95 to the Moosehead Lake region.
That stretch of state highway has so many potholes, crevices and frost heaves that to dodge them is to invite an accident and to hit them means certain damage to one’s car.
‘’I’ve been in Haiti, I’ve been in the Dominican Republic and I’ve been in Mexico. This road — that stretch from Center Street to the post office — looks likes it’s from a Third World country,’’ Dexter resident and businessman Gerrard Rudman said Wednesday.
Rudman, whose optometry business is on Spring Street, heard so many complaints from his patients and residents that he placed fliers in local stores that encouraged motorists to call Gov. Paul LePage about the road’s deplorable condition.
‘’The road looks like it has been in a bombing raid,’’ Rudman declared Wednesday.
Road crews have attempted to fill the potholes, but the cold patch remains in place only for a few days, he explained.
No question about it, it is the worst road in Maine and should win the Maine Better Transportation Association’s second annual Worst Road in Maine contest, Dexter Town Manager Dave Pearson said Wednesday.
‘’You can’t keep your dentures in,’’ Pearson said of the drive through town. ‘’That stretch of road looks like an airport in Afghanistan. It’s what you’d see after we bombed it back to rubble.’’
Recognizing that this is the time of year roads are at their worst, MBTA, a nonprofit transportation coalition, is sponsoring its worst road contest through midnight on May 15.
‘’We know bad roads are a concern for a lot of Mainers, because last year’s contest definitely hit a nerve,’’ Maria Fuentes, MBTA’s executive director, said in a press release.‘’There is a lot of frustration about this.’’
Fuentes said Wednesday that federal highway statistics indicate that 26 percent of Maine’s federal-aid highways have poor pavement and 34 percent of the state’s bridges are deficient, compared to a national average of 25 percent.
Those entering the Worst Road in Maine contest must provide a photo of a bad road and a 200-word-or-less description of why the road is so bad, and what effect it has had on them. The grand prize winner receives a $250 gift certificate for car repair, the amount a study by The Road Information Program in Washington found Mainers pay in additional vehicle maintenance due to poor roads, according to Fuentes.
So far, MBTA has received 20 entries for this year’s contest representing roads from Presque Isle to Kingfield, Fuentes said.
Last year, 70 entries were received. The winner, who wrote about Route 219 from Turner to Leeds in Androscoggin County, told a compelling story about a bent rim, blown tire, lost wheel bearing and a $1,000 repair bill, Fuentes said.
Similar repair bills are being racked up by Spring Street motorists, according to Pearson. When people complain about the car repairs and the road’s condition, Pearson said he quickly directs them to Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, and Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley.
Even though the road is not in his district, Thomas said he is well-aware of the complaints and pointed out that he’s been working for more than six years to get it repaired.
‘’Spring Street’s right up there’’ among the worst roads in Maine, Thomas, a member of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, said Wednesday. He said Route 43 from St. Albans to Corinna is just as bad.
Thomas, who lunched with Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt on Wednesday, said Bernhardt assured him that some improvements will be made to Spring Street later this year. An engineering crew will first examine the road, which has some drainage problems, he said.
The problem with Spring Street is it’s not a high-speed road and it has a concrete base, so it hasn’t been rated high enough until now, Thomas said.
The commissioner advised him that the road would be paved this summer as a short-term fix until a more permanent solution can be found.
‘’This year is the first year since I’ve been in Augusta when the paving program is fully funded for in the biennium budget,’’ Thomas said. ‘’It hasn’t been that way. They’ve always had to scrape together whatever money was left over.’’
He said the state has $48 million more in the proposed transportation budget than in the current one and that 60 miles of rural roads will be rebuilt throughout the state.
‘’If we don’t have good roads, we can’t have a good economy,’’ Thomas said. ‘’Roads are so critical to our economy.’’
No one knows that more than Pearson, who said it’s hard to recruit businesses to the community when the main thoroughfare is a washboard dotted with holes. ‘’I think we had better roads before the town was founded,’’ he said.