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The Bangor Loop (US 1/US 1A), Part 1: Bangor to Stockton Springs

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Go to: Main Bangor Loop page | Part 2

[Maine, 1955.] Our loop through Bangor and about the Maine coastline is not the only US 1A in the state; there are multiple US 1 ALTs in Maine, though the "Bangor 1A" is the longest such alternative alignment at 54 miles in length and edges out US 1A through Aroostook county (between Mars Hill and Van Buren) by several miles. As for the others, we catalogue them exhaustively in our RoadsAroundME US 1A entry.

However, the Bangor US 1A is interesting for several other reasons besides its length. First, through the city centre, it had a business route which was one of only a few double affixed routes in the entire Federal highway system ("BR 1 ALT"), although sadly it does not appear to have ever been signed. Second, that same business alignment is, with minor modifications, an original alignment of US 1 dating from US 1's original signage in Maine; in fact, the 1955 inset map at right shows that another alternate alignment ran along what is Coastal US 1 now. In 1955, US 1 and the southern US 1 ALT shown switched places to yield their present-day routings. We'll talk about that a little more when we reach the Waldo-Hancock Bridge.

All portions of modern US 1 ALT between Stockton Springs and Ellsworth were also part of New England Interstate 1, first signed in Maine in 1925. The NEI designation would be lost with the advent of the Federal Highway System in 1926, although NEI 1 would be the only route converted to US highway that kept its number.

For a little extra scenery, we will capture a bit of the drive from where I was staying with my host family in northern Penobscot county along present-day ME 15, I-95 and ME 222 into Bangor. This also shows the junction with several other US highways in Bangor (in this case the former eastern terminus of US 202, and its mother route, US 2).


We start on SB ME 15 approaching junction I-95; ME 15 itself is a very interesting (and long) highway coursing for 183 miles between Jackman and US 201 in the north to Stonington in the south, where it terminates at the Atlantic Ocean. Much of it is multiplexed with other routes, and in fact it will multiplex with I-95 shortly.

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Freeway entrance. We proceed SB I-95, along which ME 15 follows, into downtown Bangor. Bangor is Maine's third largest city at 31,473 (2000, not counting Brewer [8,987 (2000)]), behind Lewiston, and Portland, the largest. For comparison, the town I stayed in has 2,511. Apocryphally, it was named after a Welsh hymn the Reverend Seth Noble was whistling when he presented the petition to form the town to a Massachusetts official in 1791 (in those days, Maine was still part of Massachusetts). In these times, Bangor is probably best known as the chosen hometown for horror fiction writer Stephen King, who with his wife are also considerable local philanthropists.

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[Old Interstate exit signage in Maine.] Exit for ME 222, which will take us into the downtown segment. ME 222 is a minor arterial running from near Corinna to terminate at US 1A in Bangor, so this will get us more or less right where we want to be.

Note the small yellow sign giving the old exit number; this is a recent development by Maine DOT and the Maine Turnpike Authority, which regenerated them in 2004 (see our FAQ). These signs are now disappearing.

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[Old gorepoint exit signage in Maine.] Note how at the gore point there is also a yellow old exit number, signed as "FORMERLY." Although these signs were supposed to go down Labour Day 2005, they still remained up for some time afterwards but are now, slowly, disappearing. We turn right to head on EB ME 222.

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Union St EB ME 222 through Bangor. There are several distinct phases of Maine state route signage; this is somewhere in the middle, on metal signs but a smaller blank. Prior to that was wood in a non-standard typeface, and some of that is still out in the field; the earliest markers after the NEIs use a crossed corner motif on embossed metal.

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End ME 222 at the intersection of Hammond and Union Sts. Note the larger and later rectangular blanks. This is also the intersection with US 2, Maine's other primary US highway arterial, cosigned with ME 100. Note the control city signage style; this is ubiquitous.

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Possibly as a durability measure, the newest sign assemblies use integrated shield and directional arrows, and sometimes incorporate multiple route numbers onto one sign. This is on the other side of the intersection.

From this perspective, we head straight ahead on Hammond St, US 2/ME 100. Note that while ME 222 actually ends here, it is still shown as "continuing." This is an minor gaffe.

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Interesting diagonal directional arrows on one of the side streets along US 2. ME 100, which runs with US 2 on this stretch (which is an oddity for a reason we will discuss presently), is a relic of Maine's pre-national highway system that in the modern times has been supplanted by later routes and in fact except for a small portion in Portland has no independent alignment anymore (it is otherwise always signed with something else). Interestingly, there is a ME 100A in Kennebec county.

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The oddity: while US 2 continues on, ME 100 ends (it could have easily continued on with US 2, or been cut short where it joined). Although obviously this strange co-routing persisted for historical reasons, it definitely qualifies as a true useless multiplex.

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Turning right onto SB Main St. Until recently this was the northeastern terminus of US 202, which runs 627 miles on its present alignment to Basin Corner, DE (in addition, this is part of the alignment of unsigned BR 1 ALT). In the 1980s US 202 was retracted to I-395 (which we will come to in a moment), but signage persists.

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View facing south on Main, showing the only indication of US 202's former terminus. In addition, the assembly erroneously implies this is part of ME 9's routing; it should really be signed TO ME 9 because ME 9 will co-route, but we haven't picked it up yet. Also note that, as with ME 222, ME 100 is also incorrectly signed as continuing on despite the END sign we just saw! Ah well. We continue straight ahead.

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US Highway 1A

First signage for US 1A along this alignment. Actually, we're still on BR 1 ALT. This photograph doesn't show it, but we're in fact passing north of US 1A itself as it comes up NB from Ellsworth; we'll see this junction on the return leg. This is the true junction with ME 9, which is indicated east/west, although we are actually facing more south. We continue SB ("WB") on BR 1 ALT (unsigned)/US 202/ME 9 Main St.

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Interestingly, this overhead signage has eschewed control cities for "Points South and West" (the converse will be seen as we return on the loop). Note that this is part of the routing for US 202, not US 2 as is shown.

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Note how the sign said we're on US 1A, and in this case, the sign is actually now correct. If we turn around and look NB (I went a few yards south of the gantry for clarity), we see Summer St heading off to the right. This is where true US 1A merges, and thus is the end of BR 1 ALT; we'll pick this up at the very end. Also note that the sign correctly shows TO US 2. We continue SB.

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Junction I-395. Our friend ME 15 has found another alignment to mooch off of, and US 202 will join it WB. We continue as US 1A/ME 9 Main Rd.

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South of I-395, we start to veer a little more westbound and thus become consistent with the signage. Note these newer MUTCD-standard directional banners with the enlarged first letter. These are increasingly common in Maine.

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US 1A/ME 9 bypasses Hampden on the south, although there are advertising signs up for local businesses. US 202 runs more or less parallel to the west.

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Here at Western Avenue, ME 9 turns left (not signed on this post) to intersect US 202 (again another missing TO, but on the other hand US 202 was originally routed along this alignment). We continue on US 1A.

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Waldo county line. This whimsical-sounding name comes from Samuel Waldo (1695-1759), a land speculator who attracted many settlers to the area and took part in the attack on the French fort at Louisbourg in 1745.

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Entering Winterport, a charming small town along the county border.

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More integrated current-style signage.

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Junction ME 69/ME 139. ME 69 and 139 travel co-routed only briefly. Just outside of town, ME 69 will diverge north and dart west more or less parallel with I-95 to terminate at ME 220 in Detroit, ME. As for ME 139, it joins and separates from multiple routes along its own westbound meander until it terminates at US 2 and US 201A in Norridgewock.

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Looking back at the town.

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Continuing on as WB US 1A Bangor Rd.

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Junction ME 174 through Prospect. This short spur feeds the Fort Knox State Park (no relation to the famous gold reserve), Maine's largest fort despite never being finished; construction started in 1844 but was finally abandoned some 25 years later due to lack of funding. It never actually saw combat.

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US Highway 1

Advance signage for the US 1 junction.

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Coming around on the curve. There is no direct access to NB US 1 from this side, so we have to loop around on SB US 1 temporarily. Note the very old signage style; this is the earliest still in service on Maine roads. We'll see more examples of it along US 1. This portion of US 1 is co-routed with ME 3, but it's not signed here for some reason.

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To actually get on NB US 1, we have to take the first "exit" into Stockton Springs and turn around. This is shot facing NB as we ascend the ramp.

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At the stop sign at the end of the offramp is a better view of these earlier wooden signs (and signage for ME 3, finally). They are entirely painted wood, and in an example of how technology comes full circle, are fully integrated designs just like the newest signs in service. The previous example was an even better demonstration, incorporating directional banner, route shield and arrows. We turn left to cross the highway.

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This *would* have directed us to the on-ramp to NB US 1, if the sign hadn't demonstrated one of the disadvantages of being wooden (i.e., it breaks pretty easily by comparison). We turn left to enter NB US 1.

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Passing by the western US 1A terminus.

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NB US 1.

Continue to Part 2

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