A lot of Maine roads and bridges are in terrible shape. I was surprised when the 14-mile stretch of road from Jackman to the Québec border was designated as the worst road in the Maine in a contest sponsored by the Maine Better Transportation Association. Many years ago, my wife Linda and I traveled that section of road several times on our way to Québec, and I remember it is very scenic.

Even though that section of Route 201 from Jackman to Québec is part of the national highway system, part of the old Canada Road scenic highway, the national freight network and a Priority Two roadway (the second most important grade in our state) it remains in terrible shape.

The story by Press Herald reporter Peter McGuire also noted that Route 1 in East Machias was one of three runners-up in this year’s worst road contest. When Linda and I traveled to Lubec and Campobello last June, I was appalled at how bad that section of Route 1 was.

McGuire reported that Maine has an annual highway funding shortfall of $232 million. In recent years we have voted annually to support $100 million transportation bonds, but that amount is far short of what is needed, considering that 25% of our 22,860 miles of public roads are in poor condition. And a lot of our bridges are also a very poor condition.

I think a lot of this needs to be funded in the regular state budget, rather than by bonds, which we must pay back with interest.

Last year the state paved Route 41 from Mount Vernon village to West Mount Vernon but just a year later that road is a mess, with holes and long cracks.

The bridge in front of our house is a state bridge and the Department of Transportation recognizes that it is in terrible shape. But according to a local selectman, the DOT is refusing to replace it. So the town is debating what to do.

I’ve suggested that they should just tear down the bridge, which would put our house at the end of the road, eliminating all the traffic that speeds by our house today. I know that is not going to happen because our road is heavily traveled.

I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining about our roads, considering what a poor driver I’ve been for my entire life. Our 16-year-old grandson, Addison, is just about ready to apply for his driver’s license, so when he was at our house for Thanksgiving I told him some of my stories with the hope that he’d be a better driver than his grandfather.

I got my license when I was 16. Not long after I loaded up the family car with my friends and we went to the drive-in theater in Manchester. Before the movie finished, it started pouring rain.

Driving home, it was hard to see the road. I thought that was because of the rain, but halfway home a state trooper pulled me over and asked why I was driving without my lights on — I had pulled on the parking lights but not the headlights.

The trooper gave me a ticket for driving at night without my lights on. When I got home and had to tell my parents, I was crying, very distressed to get a ticket. Dad went with me to court and after I explained to the judge what happened, the state trooper got up and apologized for giving me a ticket. But I still had to pay a fine of $100, which was a lot of money back then, especially for a 16-year-old boy.

Twice I have backed out of our garage without opening the door, and twice I knocked off the driver’s-side mirror while backing out of the garage. Sadly, I’ve dented almost every car we’ve had — and several of the cars we rented on our trips. One time in Italy, I backed into an ancient rock wall; fortunately, I did not harm it.

And I did, for every rented car, purchase insurance.

I did share one positive story with Addison. Throughout my career, whenever I was stopped for speeding, the police officer recognized me and we would share a few hunting and fishing stories — and I never got a ticket.

My worst story is this one. When the kids were little we landed at the Portland Jetport after a trip to Disney World in Florida. We gathered our bags and I left Linda and the kids just outside the airport door while I went to get our vehicle. I pulled up to the airport, got out of the car and left it running — with the doors locked and my keys inside.

My daughter Hilary started crying and I felt like joining her. I called AAA and they came right over, but it took about a half-hour to get into the car.

I sure do hope you are a better driver than I was!

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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