PORTLAND, Maine — Justin Levesque remembers leaving his South Portland home at 9 a.m. for a 9:15 a.m. pediatrician appointment in Portland for his young daughter, then seeing everything come to a halt.
The Casco Bay Bridge was open to allow a ship to pass through. He found himself buried in traffic waiting for the drawbridge to close, with no way to change course.
“If I’d had an alert ahead of time, before I’d committed to the bridge and got stuck there, I’d have taken another route and probably had time to spare,” he recalled.
Now he wants to save himself — and others — some valuable time in the future with a new business idea. On Monday, he’s launching just such an alert system through his new website www.CascoBayBridge.com.
For a $7.99 subscription per year, customers will receive a text message whenever the bridge is up during the morning or afternoon rush hours — defined by Levesque as between 7 and 9:30 a.m. and between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., respectively.
And he said if the service proves popular enough, he will expand the hours in the future.
There are certainly plenty of potential customers. The 15-year-old bridge spanning the Fore River between Portland and South Portland sees about 32,000 vehicles each day.
Levesque, a full-time student at the University of New England’s College of Pharmacy, said that in previous years, while taking classes at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, drawbridge openings frequently threatened to throw his academic life off-schedule.
“There would always be students or professors showing up late because the bridge happened to be up,” said Levesque, who lives near the bridge on the South Portland side of the river. “It’s been a common occurrence for me, personally, as well.”
Levesque said he has developed a way to automatically trigger the text alerts electronically when the bridge is due to open, but said exactly how is a trade secret. He said he hasn’t been able to find anything like what he’s planning to offer anywhere else in the country, and noted that it’s not affiliated with the Maine Department of Transportation or either of the two cities.
“[This] has potential to alleviate a common commuting headache between two of Maine’s largest cities, and commuting students to SMCC,” he told the BDN Friday.