Maine preparing for Independence Day festivities

Posted July 02, 2011, at 5:32 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — With one of the summer’s busiest travel holidays now under way, Maine State Police are out in full force in an effort to make sure the long Fourth of July weekend remains a safe one.

Meanwhile, police in Bangor and Brewer are gearing up for Monday, when tens of thousands of people are expected to show up for several major events.

Col. Robert Williams, chief of the state police, said late last week that with vacationers on the move, the week of the Fourth of July is one of the busiest times on Maine roads. Given that, additional troopers will be out on patrol as well as the agency’s airplane, which will monitor traffic from the sky. The goal, he said, is to keep people safe.

Troopers will be keeping an eye out for impaired and aggressive drivers and for motorists who are not wearing their seat belts through special enforcement efforts using federal funding distributed by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, Williams said.

Williams advised motorists to be well rested, avoid drinking and driving and to expect some delays due to road construction projects and increased traffic.

He also said troopers will be reminding motorists of the upcoming ban on texting while driving, which takes effect on Sept. 28.

“The texting ban will [result in] one less distraction for motorists and a significant improvement for safety on Maine roads,” he said.

Williams credits holiday enforcement efforts with a 23 percent drop in highway deaths in Maine for the first half of this year. As of the end of June, 45 people had died on Maine roads compared to 59 for the same period in 2010.

Bangor and Brewer police are focusing their efforts on Monday with tens of thousands of people expected to turn up. Among the major events set for that day are the annual parade, which starts at 11 a.m., and the fireworks, which begin at dusk.

Also on tap is a tribute to Pink Floyd courtesy of The Machine and the Roger Waters Laser Light Show. Gates for the 5 p.m. light show at Bangor Waterfront open immediately after the parade.

In Bangor, additional officers will be on hand throughout the day, including the department’s bicycle patrol officers, Sgt. Ed Potter said Saturday.

“We have the parade, the fireworks and the concert, which will have a beer garden, so we’re planning to add manpower,” Potter said. He said the advantage of having the bicycle patrol is that the officers are able to cut through crowds and traffic congestion to get at the source of problems that might arise.

Brewer also will beef up patrols, particularly during the parade and fireworks display.

“We’ll be concentrating heavily on the riverfront and around the bridges,” Cpl. Anthony Pinette said Saturday, adding that both locations are popular vantage points for parade and fireworks watchers.

“We were quite busy last year,” Pinette said. He said that in addition to officers in vehicles, police also will be patrolling on foot.

The parade kicks off at 11 a.m., starting at the junction of Acme Road in Brewer, going down Wilson Street, across the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, right onto Main Street in Bangor and finishing up at the corner of State and Exchange Streets, where it will disband at TD Bank.

According to the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page, the parade, fireworks and laser light show will require street and bridge closures.

Main Street and the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge will be closed at 10 a.m. and remain closed until about 1 p.m. to accommodate the parade. The bridge will be closed again from 6 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m. so it can be used as a viewing area for the fireworks.

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