To Bypass, or Not to Bypass . . . in Wiscasset, Maine

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In Wiscasset, Maine, a multi-decade saga has been taking place over whether or not to build a bypass around the town.  In the summer, tourist traffic going up the coast chokes the small town.  In a small way, the traffic even played a role in our own decision to not buy a house there (the house we were looking at was close to Route 1 and we worried about the fumes with our young children).

So, on the one hand, the Portland Press Herald favors the recent decision to start-over, yet again, on the bypass (due to an empty eagle’s nest) while, on the other hand, a local resident in Wiscasset writes in support of the bypass . . . who is right?

Our own take on this is two-fold.  First, the bypass really doesn’t benefit the town of Wiscasset, it benefits the towns around Wiscasset.  Wiscasset is a really small town that is not the destination for most travelers.

Second, Wiscasset economically benefits more from the traffic than it is hurt by it.  As of our last visit, all of the downtown shops were full and business appeared to be doing well.  Yet, what happens when all of that traffic is bypassed around downtown? Many towns have been devastated after being bypassed (as wonderfully portrayed in the movie “Cars”).

Overall, Wiscasset should cease trying to get a $100 million, white elephant bypass and instead focus on measures to insure that traffic flows smoothly through town while improving livability.  Smoother traffic would even have fewer emissions than the current stop-and-go pattern.  I’m not a traffic engineer, but this plan would only cost a fraction of the by-pass to boot.

As shown in the Google map below, the plan revolves around the creation of two roundabouts to smooth and calm through traffic while enhancing the ability of local residents to easily get around town.  With the roundabouts in place, the idea of a pedestrian bridge (which also has been discussed for years) becomes more viable.  I have put notes in the map to better explain each component of the plan so I won’t rehash them all here.

I’m sure many will see this plan as naive at best, or call us a meddlesome outsiders at worst; but sometimes these situations need an objective look at the problem.  Interests can become so entrenched in their positions that they fail to think outside-of-the-box.  All I can say is that this advice is free and you get what you pay for 🙂

At any rate, look for more of this type of analysis in other towns since we love to play with these cool Google Map tools . . . enjoy!

View Wiscasset Bypass Alternative in a larger map

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