Milton Harris had been stuck in traffic for three hours Friday and was beginning to wonder if he and his wife would make it to their niece’s wedding today in New Jersey.

“At this rate, it will be September before we get there,” said Harris, who was driving south from his summer home in Damariscotta when he came to a full stop on Interstate 295 in Freeport.

“We may be running out of gas and food if this goes on much longer,” he deadpanned.

Harris was one of thousands of people who got stranded on Maine’s major highways Friday as a series of unrelated crashes tested the patience of commuters and tourists at the start of a busy summer weekend.

About 10:30 a.m. in Yarmouth, a northbound truck collided with a car, crossed the median and hit an oncoming car, dumping its load of wood chips on the northbound lanes and fuel in the southbound lanes.

The crash backed up traffic for miles in both directions, from Portland to Brunswick, as investigators gathered evidence and cleanup crews worked to clear lanes. It was hours before traffic flowed smoothly again, and the backup spilled onto Route 1.

The crash happened near the Royal River bridge, where road work was scheduled for last weekend but was canceled to prevent traffic jams. Maine State Police said the crash appeared unrelated to the uneven pavement at the bridge.

Saco police were called to the Route 1 “auto mile” about 6 a.m., after a dump truck driver failed to lower the truck bed after dropping off a load. The truck snagged wires and pulled two utility poles into the road, blocking traffic in both directions for 90 minutes, said Sgt. Christopher Hardiman.

Even before the road was clear, a northbound box truck rolled over on the Maine Turnpike at mile 44 in Scarborough. Police believe the driver, Louis Agathos, 77, fell asleep.

Agathos was hauling furniture from Washington state to a new home in Maine when he crashed about 7 a.m. Motorists spent two hours or more in the resulting traffic jam, and the area wasn’t clear until lunchtime.

By then, the crash in Yarmouth was stopping traffic on I-295. Many drivers, like Harris, couldn’t even get off that highway.

Traffic was still crawling when a three-vehicle crash in Augusta shut down the southbound lanes of I-95 for an hour.

There was a solid 15 minutes of carefree driving before a three-car crash just south of the York toll plaza tied up traffic in the Maine Turnpike’s northbound passing lane for almost an hour.

For all the headaches and hypertension caused by the crashes, police didn’t report any serious injuries.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree got stuck in one of the traffic jams. She arrived about 20 minutes late to a swearing-in ceremony in Portland for the new U.S. attorney for Maine, Thomas Delahanty II.

Before making her remarks, Pingree apologized for the delay. Then she looked over at the panel of judges who presided over the ceremony and told them — drawing great laughter — that she knew better than to come into court with an excuse.

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]