Maine is making it easier to get there from here.

New highway signs like this one on I-95 will give real-time travel information to drivers in Maine. Maine Department of Transportation

State agencies have installed a series of digital signs along interstates 95 and 295 that use real-time data from mobile devices to give updates on congestion and distance to key intersections.

The Department of Transportation and the Maine Turnpike Authority will install 10 signs in all. Signs in York, Wells, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Freeport and Topsham display the number of miles and number of minutes it takes to get to various destinations.

Signs near where the two highways connect in Saco, Scarborough, Farmingdale and Cumberland will show the expected delays so drivers can choose the fastest route.

“If there is congestion on the lower side of I-295, in the Portland area, they can make a decision if it would be faster for them to travel up I-95 to the Falmouth Spur instead of traveling through downtown,” said state traffic engineer Steve Landry.

“It is all about giving the driver information so they can make the correct decision for them.”

Updating highway sign technology in Maine is part of the state’s plan to improve mobility and reduce congestion on some of the state’s busiest roads.

The signs cost $1.3 million, Landry said. They update using location data scraped from cell phone apps and mobile devices to estimate traffic buildup and travel times. The location data is processed to remove identifying information, Landry said.

Variable signs have been a staple for traffic management in other parts of the country for years, including the busy Boston metro area.

Until recently, Maine’s traffic congestion issues didn’t seem to require investments in intelligent transportation systems, Landry said.

A 2018 report about traffic conditions on I-295 in Portland and north of the city recommended variable-message signs to help drivers avoid delays from frequent crashes and rush-hour congestion.

The Maine Turnpike Authority last year approved a $140 million construction project to widen five miles of highway around Portland to six lanes in order to keep up with traffic volume.

“Are we a little behind the 8-ball? Yes, but we are getting them in there because of issues we are having on I-295,” Landry said. “It is coming at a good time.”

State traffic engineers may add more variable signs along other high-travel corridors like Route 1A between Ellsworth and Holden, and Route 302 between Portland and Bridgton.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

 

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