CHINA — Danny Higgins opened his antique shop this year on the corner of Route 3 and Dirigo Road in South China, and he lives in an apartment above the shop for most of the month. When his children come to visit him, he doesn’t let them play in the front yard anymore.

The front yard of circa 1800s Jones House, which sells antiques, home decor and gifts, is not a safe place to be, Higgins said Friday.

In the past month there have been two bad accidents at the intersection. In one, a pickup truck pulling a trailer carrying motorcycles ended up less than 2 feet away from his shop after climbing the 15-foot embankment on the side of the property that borders Route 3.

Tire marks and chunks of ripped up lawn are still visible on the edge, and even by the house.

“When you see someone laying out on your lawn — the impact that has on your mind,” he said. Even days later, his voice shook when he talked about the accident.

The intersection, which comes after a curve and a hill on Route 3, and so has limited sight lines, includes Dirigo Road to the south and Alder Park Road to the north. After speaking with other people about how the intersection has been a problem for years, he’s made it his mission to fight for improving the its safety.


But while Higgins isn’t wrong — the intersection is dangerous — it’s barely in the top 10 on busy Route 3, the major east-west thoroughfare from Augusta to the coast.

Dave Allen, the mid-coast traffic engineer with the state Department of Transportation, said last week the town first would have to make a request before the department would consider changes to the intersection. Then the intersection would have to meet criteria for a number of accidents within a certain period of time and at the cost-benefit ratio of the project.

The intersection is one of 96 between Civic Center Drive in Augusta to the west and Route 131 in Belmont, just east of Lake St. George, about a 40-mile stretch. From 2011 to 2015, four accidents were recorded at the intersection by the department, or five if the area leading to the intersection is included.

That’s in contrast to 51 at Route 3’s intersection with Riverside Drive in Augusta, which had the most accidents on the stretch. There are 11 intersections over the 40 miles with more accidents than the one at Dirigo Road.

“We’re a big state with limited money,” Allen said. “We have to pick and choose our projects.”



“Each day it’s squealing tires and horns,” Higgins said Friday as he stood in his front yard. “It has to be addressed.”

He wants the intersection speed limit on Route 3 of 45 mph to begin earlier — the general speed limit on the two-lane road is 55 mph. If that can’t be changed, he wants the intersection’s one blinking light to be replaced with a full stoplight.

Town and state officials say it isn’t that easy.

South China is a part of the town of China, The town held a meeting on the intersection, which included a representative from the Department of Transportation, Town Manager Dan L’Heureux said.

L’Heureux said at the town’s request, signs will be added before the stop signs on Dirigo and Alder Park roads, as well as a sign below the stop signs saying that Route 3 traffic does not stop. The request to upgrade the single light beacon to a multi-light beacon is under consideration, and the state will look at factors such as safety and efficiency to make its decision.

The state and the town have implemented some safety programs for the intersection already, Allen said.


Last year, the town and the state worked together to install a mirror at the corner of Alder Park Road and Route 3, Allen said. The town bought and installed the mirror, and the state installed a post for it.

The mirror doesn’t help, though, Higgins said, and there ares still significant blind spots from Alder Park Road, which approaches Route 3 from an angle. “It’s not enough,” he said.

About five years ago, the state also made changes to improve the sight distance, lowering the road and cutting trees. That was a major investment in the intersection, Allen said. The road used to be level with the land where Higgins’ business stands, but the house is now on a hill about 15 feet above the road — the one the pickup truck climbed in Tuesday’s accident.


Sgt. Jason Madore said the intersection is one he’s familiar with on the heavily traveled road.

“We have had our fair share of crashes there,” said Madore, who is based in Augusta.


One of the largest obstacles is that the state doesn’t see the intersection as a “high crash location,” however, Allen said.

To meet that criterion, an area must have eight or more crashes within three years and have a critical rate factor, a formula that uses the critical rate and crash rate, of one or more.

As far as reducing the speed limit goes, Allen said that based on his 16 years of experience, he doesn’t think the area would meet the requirement for a reduction. Among the necessary criteria are the number of businesses and driveways, the number of accidents and a radar study. The study measures how fast people go on the road over a period of time and takes out the 15 highest speeds and sets the “pace” for the road in the 85th percentile.

The intersection has not had enough accidents in the past few years to warrant a large project. According to data provided by the state, the intersection of Alder Park and Dirigo roads and Route 3 had four crashes between January 2011 and December 2015. The critical rate factor of the accidents was zero. There were no fatalities, though there were injuries in three of the accidents.

Comparatively, the number of crashes at intersections along Route 3 from where it leaves Route 27 in Augusta until it meets Route 131 in Belmont — a stretch of 40.49 miles — was 239 for the 96 intersections on the stretch. The total that includes the intersections as well as the areas leading up to them is 499, and the entire 40.49-mile stretch of road had 738 accidents.

The intersection of Riverside Drive, which is U.S. Route 201, and Route 3 had 51 accidents in the 2011-2015 stretch. The intersection includes multiple traffic lanes, stop lights and left-turn lanes.


It’s part of the Alfond Connector, the section of Route 3 east of North Belfast Avenue in Augusta that was added in the last couple of decades, including the rotaries near MaineGeneral Medical Center, west of the Kennebec River, which opened in 2013. The rotaries on Route 3 near the hospital are in the top six for accidents between 2011 and 2015, despite the fact they weren’t built until th fall of 2013. One had 19 crashes and the other 14. The connector also includes the second-highest accident-prone intersection, West River Road, which is Route 104, and it has a full stoplight.

Another South China intersection is also high on the list. The intersection with Old Windsor Road had 15 crashes, nine of those with injuries in the five-year period.

But Higgins lives at the Dirigo Road intersection. He thinks his shredded front lawn and the vision of the truck just feet from his home indicate there’s a problem.

He said that intersection is dangerous, and that the problem will only get worse as more traffic comes through as his business grows.

He doesn’t agree with the state’s criteria for a high crash location.

“I feel that’s putting a value on someone’s life,” Higgins said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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