BELFAST, Maine — Belfast and New Jersey may not have much in common, but they share at least one thing: familiarity with jughandles, an unusual traffic feature intended to prevent left turns across traffic.
Jughandles are prevalent in the Garden State, but they are not widely used in Maine. An exception to that is the short right-hand loop road at the intersection of Route 1 and Northport Avenue in Belfast. Depending on who you ask, it has either long confused out-of-town drivers or has made crossing the busy coastal thoroughfare much easier. But time may be running out for the quirky traffic feature, which Maine Department of Transportation traffic engineers have singled out for removal.
“I don’t know of any other place that has such a thing to go left,” Dennis Emidy, a traffic engineer with the department, told Belfast city councilors last week. “To me, it’s just very confusing as to who’s going to go when. You have this swooping right. You have high speeds turning into it. And in the last two or three years, it’s been a high crash location.”
He and other engineers want to enter their proposal to get rid of it into a competition for federal safety project funds.
But not everyone in Belfast is as keen on eliminating the jughandle, including people who live nearby. Nancy Smith, of John Robinson Way, a short road located close to the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Northport Avenue, told councilors she is concerned about the proposal to remove it. The jughandle was created when the Route 1 Bypass was built to circumvent downtown.