People living and traveling in coastal Maine the next few weeks may notice a new informational road sign along some state roadways.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency, working under a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has designed a system of evacuation route signs to help people move safely away from coastal areas when a severe storm threatens.  
“For coastal residents but especially for our many visitors, this effort is an important piece of our planning to keep everyone safe in a coastal storm,” said MEMA Director Rob McAleer in a press release.

“If a severe storm were threatening, county and local traffic control plans would be activated, regional shelters would be opened, and we would direct the public to take the routes marked by the signs. Our aim always is to advise evacuations before the storm hits, when people can still travel safely.”

McAleer said this is the last phase of a project that began in 2008. “We put together a working group of state, county and federal partners to build a comprehensive evacuation plan for coastal Maine,” he said.

“We used storm surge mapping developed by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine risk areas in a major hurricane or coastal storm, looked at locations of regional shelters, then began to determine the best evacuation routes away from the coast.”  

According to McAleer, a grant from NOAA received in 2009 provided the funding to place signs along the routes. “We worked with county EMAs and the Maine Department of Transportation to fine-tune the sign design and locations, then partnered with MaineDOT to produce and place the signs,” he said.

The signs are similar to those placed in a number of coastal towns in the late 90s, an effort also funded by a federal grant. Each sign has an 18-inch circle, blue, with the words “Emergency Evacuation Route” and a directional arrow.

A similar design is used by all states along the Eastern Seaboard. This project extends that uniform signage through all Maine’s coastal counties.  

In an evacuation situation, tended traffic control points would be also reportedly be set up at critical intersections along major routes, including Route 1 and I-295, to assist travelers.

According to the press release, having the signs clearly marking the smaller feeder routes would reduce the number of responders that would need to be assigned to direct traffic.  

McAleer said MaineDOT will be installing signs the next few weeks. Where possible, they are being placed on existing posts.

MaineDOT costs, he said, are covered by the federal grant; crews are installing the signs in conjunction with other work in the area to minimize time and cost. Approximately 130 signs will be installed.