Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth legislators hope to reduce speeds on part of I-295

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FALMOUTH — Two state legislators have proposed a bill that would reduce the speed limit on Interstate 295 between Falmouth and Brunswick to 60 mph.

Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, and Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, said they commute northbound to Augusta on I-295 several times a week, and both have watched the traffic worsen and the number of accidents increase on that particular stretch since the speed limit was raised to 70 mph in 2014.

“We’ve become a very popular, livable area, and at the same time, we’ve increased the speed limit to 70,” Millett said Friday.

Pierce described the feeling of “hitting a wall” of traffic when she gets to Brunswick on her drive home. “You really feel it when you drive it north to south,” she said.

Since 2009, the number of cars on that portion of the road has increased by 20 percent, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Between 2013 and 2015, the number of accidents has jumped 25 percent, and Pierce said it was difficult not to tie the increase in accidents to the higher speed limit. Just an hour after Pierce was interviewed, two accidents occurred on I-295 in Falmouth within a mile of each other.

“For areas of that road, it’s appropriate (for the speed) to be at 70 mph,” she said, suggesting that’s too fast for an area with several exits and entrances, most of which she and Millett believe don’t have long enough ramps to handle the amount of traffic.

Pierce said the speed limit should be graduated in relation to the amount of traffic and the surrounding areas. Along the areas of I-295 that pass through Portland, the speed limit is 50 mph, and Pierce said the immediate jump to 70 mph at Falmouth is too sudden.

Millett agreed.

“I’m hoping reducing the speed limit will give people a little more space, a little more time for reactions, and avoid some of these incidents that are risking lives and cause such huge delays,” she said.

Millett called the proposed reduction a “relief valve” while the Department of Transportation continues work on a long-term traffic study that agency spokesman Ted Talbot said is part of “an ongoing effort to identity where we can help with accidents due to the increased traffic.”

He said the study is investigating what Millett called the “toxic mix” of factors that have plagued the highly traveled span of road: increased traffic, exit and entrance ramps, speed, weather and distracted driving.

In the meantime, Talbot said the department will rely on short-term fixes like better signage to alleviate congestion and reduce accidents.

He declined to comment directly on the bill because he had not yet seen it. The next legislative session begins on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, of cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

A proposed bill would reduce the speed limit on Interstate 295 between Falmouth and Brunswick from 70 to 60 mph.

Traffic clogs Bucknam Road in Falmouth after a pair of accidents Friday, Dec. 23, on Interstate 295 near Exit 10.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.
  • Mainer1

    Millet and Pierce have never created a single job and have nothing better to do than legislate over how to slow down commerce.

  • Chew H Bird

    If people take the time to actually read the excellent statistics published by the Maine State Police, and do so with a critical thinking perspective, (instead of preconceived opinions), it is basically impossible to conclude that changing the speed limit will have any statistically notable impact on the number of accidents on this stretch of 295.

    First, the majority of accidents occur during June, July, and August when tourists are looking at their GPS and texting. Second, the majority of accidents occur at on and off ramps, which should be lengthened, have better lighting, and more signage. Third, younger drivers have often never driven vehicles that do not have ABS braking, traction control, roll control, and other features that obscure the realities of actual road conditions. Additionally, people who are speeding will continue to do so regardless of the speed limit…

    The increased traffic and lack of experienced Maine drivers regarding higher traffic conditions is also a factor. Add in a few drinks, hand held cell phones, and road rage and the accident rate will continue to rise. Lowering the speed limit as a solution is simply the wrong way to fix the problem, but it is a current “hot button” in local media and the sponsoring politicians are obviously looking to bank som political feel good legislation at the expense of actually doing to work necessary to fix the real causes of increased accidents.

    • Scott Miller

      Correct. The takeaway is someone or some group is looking at this “crisis” and seeing an opportunity to generate revenue and make a name for herself via lowering the speed limit.

  • Mainer1

    This s what we are paying Millett to do?

  • Scott Miller

    Terrible idea. Reducing the speed limit will only create more congestion. Slower speeds equate to more traffic on a roadway at the same time with a given population. There are ways to fix this problem but her proposal is not it.

  • truther

    These comments aren’t exactly convincing. First of all, if lowering the speed limit has no discernible effect on accidents, that begs the question why raise the speed limit in the first place? To allow people to drive faster? But if people drive faster with a higher speed limit, then they’ll drive slower with a lower one. So lowering the speed limit will get people to drive slower, which on this particular road is a good thing given all the other issues people are identifying. I’d rather an inexperienced, texting driver be going 60 than 70.

    And any complaint that they should change the road instead, begs the question with what money? I’m no federal highway engineer, but I’m reasonably certain that rebuilding a 20-mile stretch of an interstate highway costs a LOT more than lowering the speed limit to what it was 3 years ago.