BANGOR, Maine — After driving hither and yon to grandmother’s house, hordes of shoppers will drive onto Stillwater Avenue and Hogan Road to get to the Bangor Mall and surrounding stores and restaurants Friday.
Unlike the route over the river and through the woods, the one to the mall likely will be a lot slower going but no less perilous as bargain-hungry shoppers will clog two of Bangor’s busiest streets.
“It’s ground zero for Bangor. It really is,” said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation.
While no nearby road is immune to them, traffic jams seem to occur much more frequently on Stillwater Avenue.
“It just seems to be a major thoroughfare to use to get to these destination points like the mall and the restaurants and Walmart and other surrounding stores,” said Talbot. “Generally speaking, with that new ramp off the Interstate at Kohl’s Plaza, there really are no alternatives to that route. Generally, Stillwater and Hogan Road are expected to be backed up for the season.”
Talbot said that’s especially true now that the Christmas Tree Shops and new Walmart have opened.
“There’s just one way in and one way out, pretty much,” said Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards. “There needs to be a service road out back behind there, but they can’t seem to come up with something with [Sucker Brook and Penjajawoc Stream] being there.”
Edwards sighed loudly, like a shopper whose car hasn’t moved for 10 minutes and four traffic light changes.
“We understand it’s frustrating to go to the mall and sit in a line of cars that does not move for an hour or more, but please don’t call 911 because you’re stuck in traffic,” Edwards said. “The volume is up considerably and there are going to be times when they’re stuck in traffic and there’s not much we can do to alleviate things.”
That doesn’t stop people from calling, although the vast majority have the good sense to use the nonemergency number.
“We get inundated from shoppers stuck in traffic wondering why we don’t do something about it and we only have so many people to do so many jobs,” Edwards said.
The bottom line when it comes to lessening holiday traffic stress, according to Edwards and Talbot, is to plan ahead.
“You either have to plan for being inconvenienced and delayed in traffic, or you have to utilize other tactics like shopping at a different time which isn’t the peak time of day,” Edwards suggested. “It’s better to allow for a lot of extra time and patience.”
Carpooling and the use of Bangor’s BAT bus service are other suggested ways to beat traffic congestion.
Talbot suggested using technology.
“Google Maps or your car GPS can be helpful in mapping a route out beforehand so you don’t backtrack or crisscross on your route and create more distance for yourself,” he said.
Kim Reid, Bangor Mall’s director of marketing, may have the best option.
“We’ve been offering VIP parking and a lounge pass from Living Social,” she said. “For $10, you get your own parking spot and access to the VIP Lounge at Sears Court, which is set up like a living room with furniture and offers coffee, snacks and drinks.”
Even the non-VIP shoppers have a chance for extra-special treatment.
Reid will be among several mall employees greeting shoppers when the doors open at 4 a.m. Friday with candy and treats. And the first 100 shoppers to visit the guest services booth will get gift tote bags stuffed with power bars, soda, water, pens, notepads and other goodies.
While Black Friday is a frenzy of marathon shopping, Edwards said it’s not the busiest of holiday shopping days.
“Most Saturdays during the shopping season are busier than Black Friday,” he said.
For those keeping track, Black Friday is the first of 30 shopping days til Christmas.