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The Bangor Loop (US 1/US 1A), Part 2: Stockton Springs to Bangor

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US 1 along much of the Maine coast is signed as COASTAL US 1, which seems to be unique to Maine and is not a standard banner per AASHTO. It is not clear when this designation first came into use, or for what purpose as there is no contrasting "inland" alignment.

[Central coast Maine, 1938.] The entire alignment of US 1 between Belfast and Ellsworth is co-routed with ME 3; in fact, ME 3 predates any US highway on this routing, as shown in the inset to the left. ME 3 is one of Maine's most scenic routes, a 118-mile highway from Augusta in the south to Mount Desert and the beautiful Acadia Nat'l Park in the northeast; in fact, within and around Acadia, it carries a Maine Scenic Byway designation. It is also the main route through Bar Harbor.

[Maine, 1954-5.] US 1 between Stockton Springs and Ellsworth is not part of the original US 1 routing, as mentioned previously; US 1 originally went through Bangor on what is US 1A today. Naturally, this became an increasingly inconvenient side trip as traffic volume increased and efforts were made to devise a through bypass around the city (especially since the only alternative at that time was a very overworked ferry over the Penobscot River; the inner inset of the image at left shows where the ferry was located). This new bypass was made possible by the construction of the Penobscot Narrows crossing (officially the Waldo-Hancock Bridge), an 2,040' bridge over the river mouth built for a surprisingly low cost of $846,000 in 1931 and opened for traffic on 6 November of that year.

Originally tolled at 35 cents each direction, the bridge became free 31 October 1953, the same year that it would be signed as a fully fledged Alternate US 1 (demonstrated on the rightmost 1955 inset map, which we saw in the previous section of the photoessay as well). In 1955, Maine received the blessing of AASHTO to switch designations and a new US 1A went to Bangor over the former US 1 alignment, with US 1 taking the former alternate alignment into Bucksport over the bridge. This saved over 40 miles of US 1 routing, but subsequent upgrades were required in 1962 as traffic correspondingly increased.

Time has taken its toll on the great old Waldo-Hancock and it is now marked for destruction, but we'll talk about that presently.


Continuing on US 1/ME 3 NB, with the old wooden signage once again.

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The Waldo-Hancock Bridge

Our first view of the Narrows Bridge, taken from a pull-over vista on US 1 on the approach, which crosses the Penobscot River at its mouth. The Penobscot is New England's second largest river system, approximately 350 miles in length and draining a basin of some 8,000 square miles, divided into two branches by Mt. Katahdin, Maine's highest peak. The river's name comes from a corruption of Penawahpskewi, a local Native American Indian tribe, which in an interesting convergence is now the name the remnant has chosen for themselves (the Penobscot Indian Nation); in the Penobscot tradition, the angry storm god Pamola inhabits the peak of Katahdin.

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In this pull-over spot (pardon the spherical distortion from the wide-angle lens) is an explanation of an unpleasant discovery. During MDOT's scheduled overhaul of the bridge in 2002, massive unsalvageable corrosion was discovered on the main suspension cables. Closure of the bridge for a complete teardown and reconstruction would have been logistically impossible, so an ingenious scheme was hatched to create additional reinforcement cable rigging between newly installed anchorages on the span and the towers to preserve integrity while a completely new structure was built alongside. You can read the contents of the panels.

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This means, of course, that the old Waldo-Hancock Bridge's days are numbered as it will almost certainly be demolished; now that the new span has been constructed (not shown on these earlier pictures), it no longer carries traffic. For this reason, we'll spend a little time photographing it for posterity.

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First tower (the radio aerial doesn't retract, sorry). There are two towers along the 800' suspension span, each 206' high, connected to the main span by 9"-diametre cabling.

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Passing under the first arch. The corrosion on the steel is sadly evident. The main suspension span, on which we are now traveling, has 135' clearance above the water.

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Looking over the side railing through the driver's side window.

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Second tower. The Hancock side is now visible, along with its pier for the new bridge. The piers of the Waldo-Hancock itself rise 29' above the water, and descend 45' below it.

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Looking back on the new pier (left) and the old (right).

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Hancock county line and old-style white vertical boundary signage for Verona. Hancock county is named in honour of statesman John Hancock (1737-1793), the most famous signature on the American Declaration of Independence. For its part, Verona (and the island it's on) were named after the Italian city; it was also known as Penobscot Island, and as Orphan Island as it was all that General Henry Knox (the Knox in the local Fort Knox) had to bequeath to his orphaned grandchildren. Verona is also where Commodore Robert E. Peary's ship, the Roosevelt, was built for its expedition to the North Pole.

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Blue Star designation on this highway, indicating an honourary tribute to those in the United States armed forces who have bravely defended the country. The Federal Highway Administration discusses the history of the Blue Star Memorial Highways. This is Bridge St, on the approach through Verona into Bucksport.

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That means you, Becca.

The bridge to Bucksport is visible ahead.

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COASTAL US 1

Junction (again) with ME 15 on the outskirts of Bucksport after crossing from Verona Island, which had been trailing us in a parallel alignment on the other side of the river. We veer right to become the Acadia Hwy.

Starting with this portion, we will start to see COASTAL banners presently.

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US 1/ME 3/ME 15 NB.

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Coastal US 1 banner and shield assembly, as promised.

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ME 15 diverges off again outside Orland. This portion of its alignment goes to Blue Hill, a picturesque and typical Maine oceanside town established in 1789.

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Continuing on US 1/ME 3 outside Ellsworth.

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Ellsworth city limits. Ellsworth is the county seat for Hancock county with a population of 6,456 (2000 census), incorporated in 1800 and gaining city status in 1868. Originally a ship-building town, that industry faltered as the demand for wooden ships did, and today its primary industries are retail and tourism for nearby Acadia.

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Junction ME 172 to Blue Hill. Note the Coastal signage faintly in the background. At this curve, US 1 changes names from Bucksport Rd to Main St.

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This pretty junction and "wedge" park is next door to the Woodlawn Museum and the Black House, built in the 1820s by Colonel John Black, a local war hero during the War of 1812 and a tycoon of the early lumber industry. The entire grounds, along with its eponymous brick house (not visible here), were bequeathed to the county by a descendent in 1929. The statue here is of the Colonel.

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Crossing the Union River into downtown Ellsworth, at junction ME 230. ME 230 loops around the bay to join ME 3 in Trenton.

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Junction US 1 ALT. Note the small "A" in the old wooden sign. US 1 and ME 3 continue together to the right as High St, but shortly afterwards will split apart into High St (ME 3) and the Downeast Hwy (US 1). For our part, we turn right onto Oak St to return to the other half of US 1A.

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US Highway 1A

Leaving Ellsworth to the northwest. Outside of town, US 1 ALT will change names to State St.

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Junction ME 179 and ME 180. Another useless multiplex, both ME 179 and ME 180 end right here; they travel off from this point due north to split at the southern end of Graham Lake. At this junction, US 1 ALT changes to Bangor Rd.

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Just in case you forget that this is US 1A, another sign not thirty feet away or so is there to remind you.

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Looks like the snowplows weren't watching what they were hitting last winter.

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Penobscot county line, of which Bangor is the county seat. US 1 ALT is now Main Rd through Holden. Outside the town limits, it becomes Wilson St.

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Junction I-395 again as we enter Brewer on the approach to Bangor. Note the interesting overhanging lane control signage. Brewer is Bangor's chief suburb, named for settler Colonel John Brewer.

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More "Points X and Y" signage again. To the left is Wilson St continuing as US 1 ALT; to the right is State St and the terminus of our friend BR 1 ALT, which was the earlier routing of US 1 in town (see US 1A). However, neither is signed here.

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Just past this first gantry, however, is a second that makes it marginally more clear. BR 1 ALT still isn't signed here either, however. It will make a circuitous path into Bangor over the river, changing names from State St to Oak St, then left on Washington St, right on Exchange St, crossing along Harlow and Central Sts (EB along State east of Hammond and Main), and then onto Main St where we picked it up in Part 1.

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Junction ME 15, for the final time this trip, outside of Brewer as we cross into Bangor. We pick up ME 9 again to complete the loop.

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Looking back at the gantry to see the sign going the other way as we cross the intersection.

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I-395 crossing the Penobscot over the Veterans' Remembrance Bridge (built 1986), shot from Main St in Brewer.

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The Veterans' is one of the three primary remaining Penobscot River crossings in Bangor. BR 1 ALT crosses the river northeast of us on the most recent of the three spans, the Penobscot Bridge, which was built in 1997 to replace the old steel span circa 1912. US 1 ALT crosses here on the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, named for the Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914) who was born in Brewer and among his other acclamations won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his military achievements, built as a toll span in 1959 and converted to free travel in 1971.

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Crossing the Chamberlain and entering Bangor city limits. Bangor has had a lot of trouble with bridges over the years; most of the earlier construction attempts were wooden and as such either washed away or burned down. Of its historic covered bridges, only the Morse bridge survived into the twilight of the 20th century, the last covered bridge to exist in any New England city. Approximately located at the waterfront where Exchange St ends now, it was burned down by an arsonist in 1983.

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Looking out the window, the modern Penobscot Bridge can be seen.

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Signage for the loop to cross under the bridge as true US 1 ALT, not BR 1 ALT as before, and the old terminus of US 202 once again.

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The reverse angle of the loop, from Union St on the other side of the river.

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Coming around the bend.

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US 1A and ME 9 signage looking back at the quasi-interchange.

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Ending our loop at Summer Street to join BR 1 ALT again. The loop has closed, morning has broken, etc.

Get out of the car (and swim home)

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