BANGOR, Maine — Motorists on the stretch of Interstate 295 between Falmouth and Topsham will be traveling a little slower after the Maine Department of Transportation drops the speed limit on that stretch of road starting Monday.
The decision to drop the speed limit from 70 mph to 65 mph was prompted by a nearly 30 percent increase in crashes on the 24-mile span of I-295, the Maine Department of Transportation announced last month.
“This is really something we can do immediately to address the increasing number of crashes over the last few years,” Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Sunday afternoon.
Since the speed limit was increased in 2014, the number of crashes between Falmouth and Brunswick increased by 29 percent, according to a previously published report.
In 2015, there were 354 crashes on I-295. In the first nine months of 2016, there were 265.
Over the same period, traffic volumes on the same stretch increased by 6.4 percent.
Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Department of Transportation, said last month that while a higher traffic volume on I-295 resulted in more crashes, speed and driver distraction also were factors. She said the point of lowering the speed limit was to give drivers more reaction time should they encounter crashes and other events on the road.
Talbot said the Department of Transportation also is replacing 45 mph flashing signs with large variable message boards “so we can be a lot more dynamic in our messaging, advising folks of a lower speed limit or incidents ahead, allowing them the opportunity to exit the highway if they choose.”
Talbot said the department is conducting a study of the interstate “that will comprehensively see what we can do to address congestion and crashes.”