Total eclipse exodus clogs small roads across Maine

By Ethan Andrews, Bangor Daily News Staff

The total solar eclipse that crossed Maine on Monday ended at 3:33 p.m. in Greenville, a small town at the foot of Moosehead Lake. About 30 seconds later, the car engines were heard firing up. Traffic headed out of town was bumper-to-bumper by 3:35, and the honking and swearing followed soon after.

A forecast of clear skies made Maine among the best viewing spots in the country for the rare total solar eclipse. The state’s limited routes into the sweet spot also suggested a traffic nightmare for eclipse chasers headed home.

A map released by the Maine Department of Transportation ahead of the eclipse on Monday anticipated severe traffic on I-95 from Augusta to Waterville and several stretches of “major” traffic on I-95 and I-295, clearing to “moderate” traffic north of Bangor and on the rural routes into the path of totality.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
BACKED UP THE HILL — Traffic coming into Dover-Foxcroft via South Street/Route 7 is backed up shortly before 1 p.m. on Monday, two and half hours before the total solar eclipse.

“Leading up to the eclipse, we saw one-hour delays between Skowhegan and Jackman,” Maine DOT wrote on Facebook as the eclipse approached. “Western parts of the state experienced traffic that was between 10 and 20 times normal levels. Traffic was 10 to 12 times normal levels north of Bangor.”

But in the hours after the spectacle, it didn’t appear that the multilane highway would be a chokepoint.

As of 5:30 p.m., traffic was moving south at a normal pace on I-95 in Bangor and Houlton.

It was the smaller roads, including Route 23 in Sangerville, and Route 7 in Newport — where cars were backed up for three miles in the late afternoon — that slowed under the added demand of eclipse visitors with no reason to stick around.

Bangor Daily News writers Troy R. Bennett, Paul Koenig, Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli, and Marie Weidmayer contributed reporting.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.