BANGOR, Maine — Sky bridges, interstate connections or nothing at all. Bangor officials were looking for solutions to traffic congestion around events at the Cross Insurance Center, and residents had plenty of ideas and thoughts to share during a meeting Thursday night.
Before and after performances, traffic slows to a crawl on Main Street as people try to work their way to or from the Buck Street entrance to the arena.
The city decided to close the Dutton Street entrance during shows after one of its early concerts because traffic was backing up onto Interstate 395 and causing driving hazards.
But that hasn’t been a foolproof solution, and traffic has continued to back up in other areas.
“When it’s a 7:30 show start and everyone wants to show up 10 minutes after 7, you’re going to have issues,” said Mike Dyer, general manager for the arena.
For large events, the arena draws well over 3,000 people, who take about 1,500 cars to the venue. There are about that many parking spaces at the arena.
Dyer said Hollywood Casino has cooperated with the Cross Center to allow parking for events on the top two levels of its parking garage across Main Street, and he hopes more people will take up using that parking area.
Residents from Buck Street and other neighborhood roads at the meeting said they were concerned about the increase in traffic and speeding vehicles they’ve seen before and after events at the Cross Center.
Some wanted police to direct traffic before and after events. Others suggested removing some of the signs and cones meant to direct traffic during shows, arguing that they blocked visibility and restricted drivers too much.
Gerry Palmer, a former Bangor city councilor, suggested a sky bridge from the casino garage to the Cross Center. That idea was a popular one, but would require the casino’s long-term cooperation and likely would carry a significant price tag.
The idea of a connection from the parking lot, around Bangor Municipal Golf Course, and onto I-395 or the Hampden Bypass, also came up. However, that could only be a long-term solution, as the approvals to get such a project done would take at least 5-7 years to obtain, according to Public Works Director Dana Wardwell.
“There’s no easy solution to this,” Bangor Police Chief Mark Hathaway said. “Some of your solutions are good,” but there are financial challenges behind them, he said.
City and arena officials will take the residents’ suggestions, see which ones might be workable and come up with a plan they hope will resolve some of the traffic issues, according to City Councilor James Gallant.
Gallant said there could be a follow-up public meeting sometime later this month to comb through the ideas proposed.