TOPSHAM — A dump truck that tore down a traffic light and pole at one of midcoast Maine’s largest shopping malls Thursday afternoon caused traffic delays and driving headaches that lasted for seven hours.
The accident, which occurred around 1:15 p.m. on the westbound side of Route 196, was especially disruptive because it took place at the main entrance to the Topsham Fair Mall, said Sgt. Mark Gilliam of the Topsham Police Department. The damaged traffic light is one of four that regulate traffic at the four-way intersection.
The mall entrance is on Route 196, a road used by drivers traveling to and from Lewiston as well as by those getting on and off Interstate 295 at exit ramps that are only a few hundred feet from the mall entrance.
“We had quite a traffic backup for most of the afternoon and during the evening commute,” Gilliam said. “It was a big mess. The motorists were getting pretty frustrated but we did the best we could.”
It was so cold that police officers had to take turns directing motorists through the intersection, which caused significant traffic jams.
Gilliam said the dump truck, owned by Harry C. Crooker and Sons, was leaving the construction company’s plant on Route 196 when the truck bed, which was in a raised position, hit the traffic light, pulling the light and wires down into the intersection. Gilliam said the truck driver, 53-year-old Lee Ruona, was apparently unaware that the bed had not been lowered. Ruona was not cited by police but Gilliam said Crooker’s insurance company will have to pay for the damage.
Gilliam said traffic started moving again around 8:30 p.m. after crews installed a temporary traffic light.