BAR HARBOR — Drivers navigating the intersection of Mount Desert Street and Eden streets need not be self-conscious when they pass the cameras looming over the new traffic signal. They won’t be having their pictures taken.
The cameras don’t take actual photos or video and will not be used for traffic enforcement, Bar Harbor Police Lt. Dave Kerns said. “It’s just a photo eye that recognizes traffic flow and traffic patterns. It doesn’t, to my knowledge, record anything.”
The sensors serve the same function as wires embedded in the pavement that are common elsewhere, he said, to detect when vehicles approach. “The problem with sensors in the pavement was that if they failed, they had to dig up the road as opposed to just putting a bucket truck up,” Kerns explained.
Since 2009, it has been illegal under Maine law for the state or a town to use a “traffic surveillance camera” to prove or enforce a violation of traffic laws.
Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot confirmed that the cameras are there to smooth traffic flow.
“It’s just sensing when vehicles approach,” he said. “The light will stay green until it sees a car coming the other way.”
At last week’s Town Council meeting, residents were concerned about traffic backing up at the new light. Public Works Director Chip Reeves said that the DOT has studied traffic in the area for several years and determined the traffic signal was needed. The expected increase of traffic on Eagle Lake Road when the Route 3 reconstruction detours are implemented would make it very difficult for vehicles to get off Eden Street without the light, officials explained.
The Town Council approved plans for the traffic signal in September. Under the town’s agreement with DOT, the state owns the equipment and the town is responsible for maintaining it.
Upgrades to the intersection also include six pedestrian crossing beacons.