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November 2, 2023

Maine highway drivers will catch a break in this breakdown lane, thanks to $9.4M project

The states of Maine and New Hampshire are trying out a new electronic sign system that could lighten traffic congestion between them — by allowing drivers where many are already tempted to travel.

A part-time shoulder use system was recently installed along Interstate 95 between Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H., and when the system is online later this year motorists will be able to (legally) make use of the highway's breakdown lane.

On Wednesday testing began of the system's messaging components, according to a news release from the Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Turnpike Authority and New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

The PTSU system is expected to help alleviate traffic tie-ups around the Piscataqua River Bridge by temporarily allowing vehicles to travel along the highway shoulder. In effect, motorists will get a fourth driving lane, between Exit 5 of I-95 in New Hampshire and Exit 3 in Maine.

The electronic sign system will alert drivers in both states when the breakdown lane is open for travel. Green and red arrows would indicate when the lane can be used, and a yellow signal would let drivers know when it's time to merge back into the regular traffic flow.

Officials say the system will be used during peak congestion periods from May through October, when there are accidents and other problems, and as traffic conditions warrant. Operators at the transportation management centers in Maine and New Hampshire will control the system.

Daytime shoulder closures, both northbound and southbound, will occur intermittently over the next several weeks for final system testing. Those passing through will see the system's messaging components, including beacons and lane-use signals to turn on and off at various times during the testing.

Green Mountain Communications, a telecom infrastructure company in Pembroke, N.H., is the general contractor for the $9.4 million project.

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