Events at Bangor’s new Cross Insurance Center are drawing thousands of people to the Queen City, even in frigid winter weather. But there’s a consequence of all that growth for Bangor as an entertainment destination: traffic.
It slows to a crawl around the arena before and after performances as spectators look for parking and file in. It’s a result of events that typically attract 3,000 people and about half that number of vehicles.
At a public meeting about Cross Center-related traffic Thursday night, nearby residents also said the arena’s events can bring drivers to town who speed through their residential streets.
Residents offered a number of potential solutions during the meeting: Build a skywalk from Hollywood Casino across Main Street to the Cross Center; construct a direct connection from the Cross Center parking lot around Bangor Municipal Golf Course to I-395; or assign police officers to direct traffic before and after events.
Our idea? Adjust expectations. Arrive for shows earlier if you’re attending. Carpool. Walk if you’re close enough. If you live in or need to get around Bangor around showtime, be willing to tolerate some occasional traffic, or take an alternate route.
There’s no need for costly, complicated, multi-year solutions to a problem that essentially amounts to a growing pain. And to have a growing pain in Bangor, especially in the middle of a Maine winter, is a good thing.
The Cross Insurance Center (disclosure: the Bangor Daily News is a founding partner) hasn’t even been open a full year. It just got high marks for hosting its first high school basketball tournament, which saw a bump in attendance over previous years. Hunter Hayes and James Taylor are on the events lineup over the next few months.
People in Maine are still being introduced to the Cross Center and the caliber of acts it attracts. Many in Maine definitely aren’t used to traffic. It takes some adjustment to get used to a major new establishment in the area.
Those attending Cross Center shows, especially big-name acts, can’t expect to show up just 20 minutes beforehand, find parking and be sitting in their seats in time for the opening act. Imagine showing up just 20 minutes before a show at the Charles Playhouse in Boston (which has a smaller capacity than the Cross Center), finding parking and getting to your seat on time.
Bangor isn’t Boston. But the Cross Center is attracting some shows of the same caliber that one would find in Boston theaters. Those attending Cross Center events should alter expectations accordingly.
If not everybody is trying to park at the Cross Center at the same time, the flow of traffic before and after shows should become more tolerable. It would help as well if those attending made use of every parking alternative, such as the Hollywood Casino parking garage across the street.
Over time, a change in behavior — planning to arrive for shows a little earlier and, for everybody else, being willing to tolerate occasional, increased traffic — will take care of the problem.
While it’s not a tangible solution that offers easy comfort, it’s a solution that can obviate the need for an expensive sky bridge or a new, taxpayer-funded I-395 traffic pattern that would require multiple layers of approval and years of review before construction even begins.
And if speeding drivers persist on residential streets near the Cross Center and it proves a safety issue, the city has a number of traffic-calming options, such as speed tables, speed cushions or elevated crosswalks.
But show-goers and residents shouldn’t jump to expensive, complicated solutions to eliminate a growing pain.