Over a Century, This Intersection Evolved Into One of the Worst in Maine
One of the things about Maine that makes it unique is that many of the towns here have a village center. Several come to mind like Brunswick, Windham, and Casco. The list goes on and on.
What makes these village centers unique is that they have remained mostly unchanged since the towns were incorporated. The center of business has moved elsewhere in the towns for some, but the village center remains, and with it, the traffic patterns that have been there since the days of the horse-drawn carriage.
One of those villages is in the town I grew up in, South Paris. The traffic pattern in Market Square has experienced minimal change for all my lifetime.
Here's what Market Square looked like back in 1905. This was back when there was still a tall elm tree in the square before most of them in Maine were destroyed by Dutch Elm disease.
You can see the horse and buggy in the right corner at the intersection on High Street.
Now take a look at Market Square in 2023.
Not much has changed in the traffic pattern since 1905, and Market Square has always been a frustration for locals. Not because they don't know how to navigate it, but because those who don't live there have no idea. It's simple really. Everyone stops, except for people heading north on Route 26.
The problem happens when those people on 26 stop when they aren't supposed to. Then it's a game of waving hands trying to figure it out. Up until the reconstruction of Market Square in the '80s, the right turn only sign also had a version in French for Canadians traveling through on their way to Old Orchard Beach. It still didn't help.
When I go home to South Paris, it never fails. Someone always stops where they aren't supposed to or doesn't stop where they ARE supposed to.
For decades, there has been talk of installing traffic lights in Market Square, but for whatever reason it has not happened.
Maine DOT crash data for South Paris, show that in 2022, there were 13 car crashes in Market Square. Still not enough for a traffic light, it seems.
Here's a list of more of the worst intersections in Maine.
The Worst Intersections in Maine
Gallery Credit: Jeff Parsons
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