NEWPORT, Maine — A sign stating that Newport is the “Crossroads of Maine” is aptly placed.
The sign is near the “Triangle,” where three major routes intersect. Routes 2, 7 and 11 all converge at the triangle, which is near exit 157 off Interstate 95.
The traffic congestion at the Triangle has caused many problems and backups over the years, say some commuters, but town and state officials have no immediate plans to make any changes.
“I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents than there are,” said Wade Wheeler, assistant manager at Dunkin’ Donuts on the Palmyra side of Oxbow Road on Route 11. “I think [the business in the area has] grown up so big. It’s gotten busier as the years have gone on.”
Several businesses, including four fast food restaurants and two gas stations, line Route 11, just off the interstate.
Newport Town Manager James Ricker said he is aware of the frustration from motorists, but added that it’s a sign that the town is a nice place for a business.
“When I came here in 1981, there were only a couple of businesses out there and two were abandoned,” said Ricker. “There was no Shop ’n Save, no minimall. It was all fields and woods.
“Look at it today. If you were in the retail business, it is the biggest in the area. It developed itself based on location,” said Ricker.
A traffic count conducted in 2003 found that about 11,000 vehicles per day cross the Newport-Palmyra town line on U.S. Route 2, said Ricker. From the interstate to High Street on Route 11, the count was 18,230 per day.
“It’s telling me we have a town with a good vitality to it,” said Ricker. “When you’re in a small town of 3,000 to 4,000 people and see seven cars an hour, it’s disheartening. When you have this type of business base, it generates 34 to 36 percent of our tax base.
“I’d like to have two or three more types of locations in this community,” he said.
Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said the area is not scheduled for any maintenance this year. The traffic light installed at the intersection of the three routes was put in only a few years ago, he said.
“It’s not a high-crash location or incident location,” said Talbot. “The speed limit is already down [to 25 mph].”
Although the speeds are fairly slow, it’s nearly impossible to get out of businesses during certain times of the day, said Mason Johnston, senior account business specialist at the Wireless Zone.
“There’s about three hours during the day, morning and evening, where you can’t even take a left leaving my store,” said Johnston, who has worked at the store along Route 11 since 2004. “I take a right and go around. It’s impossible to go left.
“It’s like playing Frogger,” he said.
With summer approaching, the congestion will get worse, said Johnston.
“Come Memorial Day, there’s three-and-a-half months when it’s heavier [traffic],” he said, mentioning the many lakes in the area that tourists visit.
“Newport has changed and continues to change, especially in that area and especially in the summer,” said Ricker.
Talbot said the only way the problems could be addressed is if the town requests a traffic study from the DOT.
“We’re taking municipality requests for the next work plan [now],” said Talbot. “If they identify it as an area that needs to be looked at, now is the time [to do it in time for] the next capital work plan.”
If nothing is requested, the earliest it could be looked at is for the 2014-2015 work plan, said Talbot.