Maine had one of the first few “superhighways” in the country, but an unbroken four-lane highway extending from New Hampshire to the eastern border of Canada wasn’t finished until fewer than 40 years ago.

The Maine Turnpike Authority was created in 1941 with the goal of creating an unbroken north-south toll road spanning the entire state. Within seven years, the authority built the first 45-mile segment of a four-lane divided highway between Kittery and Portland at a cost of $20 million. The state’s largest construction project at the time, the new road was intended as an alternate north-south travel corridor to traffic-clogged coastal Route 1.

In 1955, eight years after the first segment was completed, the turnpike authority finished a roughly 66-mile extension from Portland to Augusta.

But then politics intervened. Further toll road construction in the U.S. was suspended after President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the interstate highway system.

Building the core of the interstate highway system in Maine took the better part of a generation. A four-lane section of highway between Brunswick and Freeport opened in 1957, and another section opened in Bangor the next year.

But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Maine completed the bulk of the 365-mile interstate system, including the mainline Interstate 95 corridor and shorter sections – I-195 in Saco, I-295 between Portland and Brunswick, and I-395 in Bangor. The widening of Tukey’s Bridge in Portland was the last component of the highway construction, completed in 1990.

Construction generally proceeded from south to north, but the project was complicated by property acquisition, funding and unique building conditions, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. Before the roughly 310-mile mainline between the New Hampshire border in Kittery and Houlton, on the Canadian border, was completed, drivers were forced to use secondary roads because of “significant gaps” in the four-lane divided highway, according to the department.

Today, the turnpike authority continues to maintain and charge for the highway from Kittery to Augusta. The Maine DOT maintains the rest of I-95.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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