NEWPORT, Maine — A bridge project on U.S. Route 2 in Newport has confused some drivers and led to several arrests as local police have stepped up patrols in an effort to control the situation.
The Maine Department of Transportation closed the Main Street-Route 2 bridge in downtown Newport on Monday, causing a serious disruption on one of central Maine’s busiest thoroughfares despite heavy use of warning signs on virtually every road leading into Newport, said Police Chief Leonard Macdaid. The construction and detours are scheduled to last into August.
“If people follow the signs wherever they’re coming from, it’s very well-posted,” said Macdaid. “Things have changed a lot and people who have lived here their whole lives are making mistakes.”
Macdaid said new stop signs where there used to be none are particularly confusing for locals and he has wrapped several of them in bright emergency tape so they will be noticed. The first couple of days of the detours around the bridge were a little rocky, particularly regarding big rigs coming through what is known by many as the crossroads of central Maine: Routes 2 and 100.
Because of safety concerns about commercial traffic on some in-town roads, namely Elm and North streets, Newport selectmen held an emergency meeting Tuesday and voted to clarify restrictions that already were in place, namely that trucks weighing more than 69,000 pounds and all tractor-trailers are barred from using in-town roads, according to Newport Town Manager James Ricker.
The intersection of Elm and North streets in particular is too tight for two trucks at once and with summer kicking in, the nearby town beach, boat launch and recreation center will be busy with children and pedestrians, said Macdaid.
“Wherever you’re coming from, there are signs leading you to the detours,” he said. “There is no excuse for there to be tractor-trailer trucks on those in-town roads.”
Macdaid said several truck drivers have been given warnings in the past few days but that the warnings will give way to tickets as of next week. Several other motorists also have had run-ins with officers, some of them resulting in arrests. There were four arrests Tuesday and one Wednesday morning, all by Newport Patrol Officer Stephen Morrell, said Macdaid:
• At about 8 a.m. Tuesday, Morrell recognized Aaron Quintal, 27, of Etna, and charged him with operating after suspension. Quintal was taken to the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor.
• At about 9 a.m. Tuesday, Morrell received a report of a truck driving on some railroad tracks near the downtown. The vehicle, which was freighted with scrap metal, was found near the bridge construction zone. Morrell discovered that the occupants had pried some metal stakes from the tracks — which could have compromised the integrity of the tracks — and intended to cash that and other metal materials in at a local recycler, Macdaid said. The driver, John Haskell Jr., 24, of Pittsfield, was charged with theft and arrested on two warrants for unpaid fines out of Newport District Court. Macdaid said Haskell and his passenger might face further legal action from the railroad company because they were illegally driving on the tracks and destroying railroad property.
• At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Morrell stopped Andrew Veysey, 23, of Newport, and arrested him on charges of operating after suspension and possessing a suspended driver’s license.
• In another traffic stop shortly afterward, Morrell arrested Kaylee Lynch, 19, of Newport for alleged unpaid fines out of Penobscot County.
• At about 9 a.m. Wednesday, Morrell arrested Evan Aucoin, 23, of Unity for allegedly operating without a license.