September 29th, 2011

Life in the Maine fast lane

The state of Maine has raised its top speed limit to 75, but the new figure only applies to a 110-mile stretch of highway way up north (or downeast, whichever you prefer). That means it will probably affect about three drivers a week, because there are parts of Maine—huge parts of Maine, actually, which is a surprisingly large state—that are as empty as much of Alaska.

And now I’ve learned how we can all get the speed limits raised: just drive faster! Yes, that’s apparently how it works:

Transportation Department spokesman Mark Latti said the department bases its limits on the speed at which 85 percent of motorists travel, and highway surveys showed that percentage were going 74-75 mph along the northern I-95 stretch.

Traffic studies show that people travel the speed they feel most comfortable going, no matter what the posted limit is, Willette noted.

And now I think I’ll present one of my favorite driving/highway songs—not that it has all that much to do with this post, but because I just feel like it:

And in case that wasn’t deep enough for you, listen to Waits live, singing the same song about 25 years later. It’s been a rough 25 (and how does this man continue to have a voice at all, considering the abuse his takes?):

And this description of Waits’s voice, by critic Daniel Durchholz, is pretty funny, if somewhat understated:

[Waits's voice sounds] like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.

I’d say it actually sounds like it was left hanging in the smokehouse for a decade, and run over by a Mack truck. But that’s just me.

16 Responses to “Life in the Maine fast lane”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    The excellent Maine online newspaper The Rumford Meteor reports this as:

    Northern Mainers Now Legally Going Nowhere Fast

  2. vanderleun Says:

    And speaking of the Rumford Meteor, our Red Sox loving neo will appreciate this morning’s headline:

    “Proposed New Red Sox Uniform Omits Shoelaces, Belt”

  3. Scott Says:

    Wow. They would never raise the limit where I live.

    There’s a terrific steakhouse about 3 miles from our house that we treat ourselves to a couple of times a year because it is so convenient and happens to be one of the best in our city.

    But to get there, there’s a stretch of road of maybe two miles where the speed limit is a ridiculous 20 MPH. On the way there, part of the road is on a slight decline, so I have to actually ride my brakes to avoid speeding. There are only two intersection on this stretch of road, both of which are extremely low traffic intersections. There’s almost never traffic waiting at the intersection to come onto the main road, which itself does not often have alot of traffic. It’s completely nuts to have a 20 MPH limit on this stretch of road. There is absolutely no reason why the speed limit should not be 35 to 40 MPH. The only reason why the limit is 20 MPH is because they use it as a speed trap to write people up and fine them for speeding.

    We went to the steakhouse about six months ago, and I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the red lights were flashing. I looked at my speedometer and said, “he can’t be after me, I’m not even going 30 MPH”. But to my surprise, he was after me.

    He wrote me up for going 29 MPH in a 20 MPH zone. I had a perfect driving record: no accidents, no tickets, no warrants, nothing. But the asshole would not give me a warning. He wrote me up so the city could collect the $75 fine for going 29 MPH — and had the gaul to tell me to slow it down next time. Slow it down! 29 MPH!

    I just happened to be on that road this past Sunday. I saw two cop cars within that two mile stretch, one of which had someone pulled over.

    That’s what our government has become. They just create these ridiculously stupid laws that normally law abiding people unwittingly break, just so they can collect revenue from fines.

  4. Valjean Says:


    Thanks for the tunes by the great TW. The Eagles did a very listenable version of Ol’ 55 back in the day as well — but it’s just way too clean.

  5. Highlander Says:

    About Northern Maine: I am convinced, that for the last 30 years – a time of unceasing liberal/environmentalist political control – the plan has been to turn Northern Maine into a vast wilderness park. They are nearly there.

  6. Ryan Says:

    That reminds me – Montana for the longest time had no official daytime speed limit on rural highways. I think the phrase they used was “reasonable and prudent.”

    I remember heading west on I-94/I-90 towards Bozeman back in the 90s at around 80 mph without a worry.

    Now they do have a speed limit.

    I think certain stretches of interstate in West Texas have a daytime speed limit of 80 mph these days.

  7. gcw Says:

    I went through junior high and high school with Mr. Waits, and we were in our first band together in 8th grade. Having endured this incredible artist and friend through the years since then, I can say for the record Tom thinks the Eagles’ cover of ‘Ol 55 absolutely sucks air.

  8. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    With all due respect to Scott, there’s nothing particularly new about what he’s experiencing.

    When I lived in Michigan (1984 to 1994) the town of Ithaca was one of the most notorious “speed traps” in the state. It was their way of getting revenue for the city.

    So, while there are many things I decry about the current times, and for which I blame those times, this ain’t one of them.

  9. SteveH Says:

    Madison Wisconsin has a ridiculous 25mph speed limit everywhere. I felt like i was out looking for a lost dog while driving through the place.

  10. gs Says:

    I’ve gone up there a couple of times. A 75 mph limit on I-95 makes complete sense.

    Driving on a two-lane state road, I recognized the scenery of Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

  11. rickl Says:

    I felt like i was out looking for a lost dog while driving through the place.

    Thread winner.

  12. Daniel Says:

    We raised the speed limit in Jersey, and that did slow people down.

    Before we raised it to 65 on some roads, the State Patrol made it very clear that they were going to go on a rabid enforcement effort to keep the speeds down. They had been hovering around 80+ at the time, and when the speed limit was raised, we all slowed down dramatically to avoid the draconian fines. As the years went on, the actual speeds have increased, but not as bad as they once were.

    When we are made to go too slow for comfort, we speed up and then have to cope with other people doing the same. Enough people always want to be out in front and that will cause a sort of “speed race”. The key is to make the speed limit reasonable for the roads.

    And isn’t way up north just the opposite of Downeast in Maine? DownEast is the tourist areas which are quite nice. Way up north in the wilderness is not like that at all.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Daniel: no, way up north is not the opposite of downeast in Maine.

    Technically speaking, though, my joke wasn’t appropriate for this stretch of highway, because the highway is inland and “downeast” is more properly used for the coast of Maine because it is a sailing term. But “downeast” really does mean “up north” in Maine (see map at link). Here’s the explanation:

    When ships sailed from Boston to ports in Maine (which were to the east of Boston), the wind was at their backs, so they were sailing downwind, hence the term ‘Down East.’ And it follows that when they returned to Boston they were sailing upwind; many Mainers still speak of going ‘up to Boston,’ despite the fact that the city lies approximately 50 miles to the south of Maine’s southern border.”

  14. SteveH Says:

    I have friends in Michigan that refer to the east coast as “out east”. Really weird because as a southerner i’ve been conditioned all my life to out being west and back being east. Almost as natural as up north and down south now that i think about it.

  15. Gary Rosen Says:

    ” I can say for the record Tom thinks the Eagles’ cover of ‘Ol 55 absolutely sucks air”

    I’m sure he was so outraged by it that he turned down the royalties.

  16. rickl Says:

    neo at 9:55
    That is really cool. Terminology from the days of sailing ships that has survived to the present time.

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