The Maine Turnpike Authority is stepping up its efforts to help stranded motorists with the help of automotive insurance provider State Farm.

In the coming weeks, new signs will be posted along the turnpike advertising “Dial #999,” the number motorists can call from their mobile phones if they need help with issues such as fixing a flat tire or towing a disabled vehicle.

The new number will work with all AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless phones but will not work with certain other carriers including U.S. Cellular, the turnpike authority said. Those customers will have to call 800-675-PIKE for assistance.

As part of the new program, State Farm is sponsoring two company-branded “Safety Patrol” vehicles that will be present on the busiest sections of the turnpike during peak traffic hours, the Bloomington, Illinois-based company said. State Farm is covering the cost of those patrol vehicles, the amount of which it would not disclose.

The patrol service will be performed by a contractor, AutoBase Inc., founded in Valley Stream, New York, in 2003 to provide privatized roadside safety patrol services to the New York Department of Transportation. AutoBase also operates safety patrols in four other states: Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

“The Safety Patrol offers free, limited roadside assistance to drivers in need, including providing fuel, changing flat tires, jump-starting vehicles, providing lockout assistance, and moving disabled vehicles to the shoulder,” the turnpike authority said in a news release. “The patrol vehicles are equipped with emergency lighting and road flares to further increase safety for stranded motorists, and also to help relieve congested traffic at the scenes of incidents and accidents.”

As part of the sponsorship program, the two patrol vehicles will be outfitted with the Maine Turnpike Authority and State Farm logos along with highly reflective safety markings to make them more visible and clearly identifiable to motorists, even at night.

Hours of operation for the State Farm Safety Patrol will vary by season. The winter schedule, beginning after Columbus Day weekend, will be between Exit 48 in Portland and Exit 32 in Biddeford, Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

The summer schedule, beginning Memorial Day weekend, will be between Exit 48 in Portland and Exit 32 in Biddeford, Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 7 p.m., and between the Piscataqua River Bridge and Kennebunk on Fridays from 1 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Still, turnpike authority maintenance vehicles will be available on all sections of the turnpike at all hours to provide roadside assistance, said the authority’s executive director, Peter Mills. He noted that turnpike maintenance vehicles have been helping stranded motorists for decades.

“State Farm is going to be used during the heavy commuter times and the times when there are a lot of tourists on the road,” Mills said. Maine is the 15th state to receive a State Farm safety patrol sponsorship. The others are Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson


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