On Mount Desert Island, we live far from the interstate highway system. Our state highways here double as local roads: they carry residents, commercial traffic and visitors to and from our towns from the mainland, but they also have school bus stops, people walking their dogs, joggers, cyclists and crosswalks.
Visitors used to freeways have some adjusting to do when traveling in rural Maine. On major roads such as Route 102, the speed limit drops quickly for southbound traffic from 50 to 40 to 30 over a very short distance.
Tremont has the challenge of having almost no state highway, because the roads there have less traffic and shorter trip length. Mount Desert has the opposite challenge: all of the routes to Southwest Harbor and Tremont, the ones on land, anyway, go through Mount Desert. That means a lot of traffic, much of which is just passing through.
The section of Route 102 that is Somesville’s Main Street has by far the highest traffic count of any road in the town of Mount Desert. Average annual daily traffic increased from 9,090 in 2014 to 9,870 in 2017. That’s as much as the busiest sections of Route 3 in Bar Harbor, and two-thirds the amount of traffic across the Trenton bridge, which in 2017 was 15,000.
The town is going to ask the state for a speed study, with the goal of adjusting the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 through the commercial area of Somesville to prepare southbound drivers for the lower speed limit that already exists on Main Street in the residential part the village.
That’s a good idea, but it will take awhile. A previous speed limit adjustment took nearly four years. In the meantime, we who live or work here and regularly transit the area can help adjust the traffic pattern the old-fashioned way. We can slow down and paying careful attention to all the other users of the beautiful, historic Main Street of the island’s oldest village.