Down the Road a Piece
Maine’s ugliest drives
Downeast Magazine this month featured ten pretty drives in Maine, which I would find a difficult choice to pick as there are quite a few. Some we know didn’t get mentioned, of course, but they are there.
Their article has brought to my devious mind Maine’s ugliest drives. I don’t know how many there are, but I’ll start with my non-favorite road.
My driving it at 5 a.m. on my way to work and again around 6 p.m. on my way home may add to my distaste. But it starts not when I haul out of our drive in the semi-darkness (dark in winter) but when I get to town.
Ellsworth’s High Street rates right down there, perhaps the lowest on my list of ugly drives. Partly that’s because all traffic, including the about three million tourist vehicles that visit Acadia National Park each year, is forced to go through Ellsworth to get where they’re going.
A half-century ago someone thought of putting a bypass around our unfair city, such as other busy towns enjoy, but the idea was put on hold -- and is still holding. It may be that the town business owners think that all those people stuck in traffic will stop at their stores.
I once was in a barber shop on High Street and commented to the owner that I had been three months trying to get a haircut (as opposed to my usual four months).
“I’ve been three months trying to get in here,” I commented.
“Oh, traffic is only heavy in the summer,” he responded.
I forgot to tell him that actually I had thought of coming in for a haircut several times during those three months. But what matters is not my forgetfulness or deviousness but that his first thought was of the heavy traffic along the town’s busy High Street. I would guess that nearly everyone along High Street or who uses it is aware of the traffic congestion -- that could have been resolved by a bypass a half-century ago.
That same road has flooded for 20 years whenever a heavy rain tries to share High Street with all the traffic, or at any time it rains. “They” have tried to fix the road, rebuild it, and do who knows what to it, but when it rains it floods. Not as badly as before all the fixing, but it still floods.
A new road, Myrick Street, was built to bypass northbound traffic that had been going up a hill on Route 3, leading to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. As a two-way road, it never had seemed that congested, but who am I to question the gods of highway construction. “They” had built Myrick Street, left a couple of signs at wrong places, not added a traffic light where it is needed, and placed a traffic signal at a wrong location on a long over-the-road pole.
An article in the paper stated that the town was going to hire engineers to make Myrick Street less confusing. I wrote a letter to the town manager, making a couple of simple suggestions to fix it. My letter was never acknowledged -- oh poor me. The problem still persists, and a friend lost a Toyota Yaris from being whacked in the side at one of the street’s intersections.
Yup, one of the ugliest -- and most frightening -- roads in Maine.
Another ugly road is a main road into Bar Harbor, a heavily traveled stretch of nasty bumps in the center of town. It jostles my bus pretty badly twice a day, and I’m sure everyone who uses it regularly wishes for a “road construction” sign to appear. To date, after 20 years I’ve known of its bumps, bangs, and lurches, no such sign has appeared.
Along Route 3, not far north of Mount Desert Island is a new traffic light. I think it may be to allow traffic out onto Route 3 from a side road, Route 230. It may do that, but during rush hour it also ties Route 3 traffic up for a mile and a half south onto the island. A brand new ugliest drive in Maine.
Oh yes, one two-lane bridge connects Route 3 with the island. In summer, traffic is backed up along the sections north of the island to the new traffic light and south of the bridge for at least a mile. I have often wondered what would happen in an emergency, when it became necessary to have another road off. There have been a number of accidents that blocked Route 3, one in which my bus was held up for five hours -- and during which passengers discovered a new use for several large bushes alongside the road.
Not only is that one of the ugliest roads in Maine, despite the scenic ocean glimpses it offers, but it is one where too many motorists have had too long to meditate upon its shortcomings.
There are other ugly drives in Maine, but, the immediate environs of Ellsworth -- labeled lovingly Clusterworth by Dolores and I -- have used all the space in this column.
Besides, I’m off to get my bus and cruises through Clusterworth and then argue -- fighting is so crude -- with traffic to and from Mount Desert Island.
If you know of an ugliest drive elsewhere in Maine, feel free to e-mail me, and we’ll add it to the list -- about which perhaps someday I’ll get a chance to write.
When I feel ugly enough.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013