OLD TOWN, Maine — While the intersection of Stillwater Avenue and College Avenue is bumpy, its condition doesn’t concern many motorists who use it regularly.
The subject of six complaints by Bangor Daily News readers on the “See it. Fix it.” feature on the BDN website prompted Old Town Public Works Director John Rouleau Jr. to take a ride over to the busy intersection.
“I try to check that often on the BDN site because I actually find it helpful in terms of letting us know about potential problem areas,” Rouleau said. “I had to go to Bangor and did stop by the intersection, but I didn’t really see anything major.”
Neither did any of the drivers traveling through the spot who were surveyed late Sunday morning.
Chuck Emery, who has lived on Fourth Street in Old Town for 10 years, said the going isn’t as tough as it has been in previous years.
“To tell you the truth, I never really noticed this being particularly bad. It’s just one of those things,” said Emery, who was washing his truck at a do-it-yourself carwash next to McDonald’s off Stillwater. “It’s a fact of life we put up with this every year. Last year I hit a pothole and ruined one of my rims. I had to pay 300-something dollars to fix it.”
Emery’s son Chad is finding it easier to keep smoother road under him while riding around on his 2009 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle.
“It’s always easier on a bike because we can maneuver around it quicker if we see it,” said Chad Emery. “The only problem I have is the dirt on the sides of the roads. They haven’t really been around with the street sweeper yet.”
Rouleau said his department makes it a point to respond to motorist complaints promptly.
“We’re pretty proactive on that stuff because of the Highway Defect Act,” he said. “We’re mandated to fix areas within 24 hours after we get a complaint or report, because otherwise we could be liable for property damage up to $6,000 caused by a pothole or other defect.”
As many as 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day travel through the intersection, according to Rouleau, who has conducted traffic counts at the site.
“It’s a busy road, but I think letting the heavy trucks go back on the Interstate has helped a lot,” said Russ Beadnell, a longtime Old Town resident who was out for a Sunday drive in his 1997 Chevrolet Corvette. “Now that they’ve fixed Forest Avenue going across, I don’t really notice any real bad stretches of road now.”
Many motorists complained about the upper section of Stillwater which runs away from the intersection farther into Old Town. For them, Rouleau has some good news, albeit tempered.
“Stillwater was scheduled to have a section of it resurfaced this year, but that’s been postponed by DOT, from McDonald’s to the cemetery, which is more of a rebuild with a ‘suicide lane’ in the center,” Rouleau said, using an expression for a turning lane in the middle of a roadway. “We resurfaced about a 1,000-foot section last year from the cemetery to about where the elementary school is located.”
Most drivers seem genuinely sympathetic toward the plight of public works employees.
“I think they do the best they can do. You can complain, but it isn’t going to get you anywhere,” said Beadnell. “It’s very expensive for them now. Oil’s way up and tar is more expensive. I feel bad for them, but not bad enough that I want them to up my taxes.”