A sure sign of summer in Maine is not just warm temperatures, flip flops and putting the air conditioner in the window. A sure sign of summer is also the big traffic backups in Windham caused by Maine visitors heading home. There's a simple way to ease that backup if drivers would just look at the lines on the road.

During the summer, left-turning traffic at the intersection of Roosevelt and Tandberg Trail backs up with all the tourists, campers, and people who have a second home on Sebago Lake leaving after the weekend, headed toward the Maine Turnpike.

This was a photo of the traffic backed up all the way into the center turning lane in the afternoon on the first day of summer.

All these cars are in the center turning lane creating the backup because that's not what the center turning lane is supposed to be used for. Take a look at this satellite map that shows an identical backup from overhead.

Google Maps
Google Maps

The cars shown in the center turning lane, between the two yellow lines, should not be there. They should be in the left travel lane to their immediate right where the dark-colored car in the center of the photo is. As you can see, there is still plenty of room in the travel lane, where they should be, which will help ease the congestion and allow more people to use the center lane for what it was designed for, turning left into the many businesses along the strip.

Here's the law in Maine, where the center turning lane qualifies as a two-way lane:

Two-way lane. On a public way that is divided into more than 2 lanes and one of those lanes provides for 2-way movement of traffic, a vehicle may not be operated in that lane except:

A. When overtaking and passing another vehicle when the way is clearly visible and the 2-way traffic lane is clear of traffic for a safe distance unless an official sign or traffic control device limits the use of that lane to turning only.

B. In preparation for a left turn from the 2-way traffic lane.

C. When the 2-way traffic lane is at the time allocated exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is proceeding and is posted to give notice of that allocation.

D. As part of a 2-part turn when the vehicle turning left from a driveway or entrance uses the 2-way traffic lane until the travel lane in the direction the vehicle is proceeding can be entered safely by the vehicle.

Part B is what applies here, with the key part being that you can't use the lane unless you are preparing to turn FROM the lane. These drivers and not turning from the center lane. they are turning from the left turn lane at the traffic light at the intersection. That's not a two-way lane, so they are in the wrong lane and should move to the left a the end of the center lane.

If drivers would just do this properly, it would allow those heading east to turn left into places like The Windham Shopping Center, Planet Fitness, KFC, Dairy Queen and Cumberland Farms. It won't eliminate the backup, but it would most definitely lessen it if they wait to enter the left turn lane after the center lane ends.

The problem is you can't make people do this, just like you can't make people yield to traffic on the highway when entering from the off-ramp, but that's a rant for another day.

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