The Maine Department of Transportation is launching a new program to help stranded motorists on the busy southern stretch of Interstate 295.
The state has hired an outside company for safety service patrols on I-295 between Exit 1 in Scarborough and Exit 22 in Freeport starting Monday. Modeled after a program on the Maine Turnpike, the company will be available to help with vehicles that have had minor mechanical failures or crashes. Those free services include moving vehicles or debris out of the path of traffic, changing flat tires, cleaning up minor vehicle fluid spills and helping other agencies at the scene.
Talbot said the state signed a two-year contract with a company, called AutoBase, for $331,500.
Hours of operation will vary by season. The winter schedule, starting the weekend after Columbus Day, will run Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The summer schedule, beginning the week before Memorial Day, will include weekend hours. The patrol will be on from Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and an extra hour on Fridays. On Saturday, it will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Sunday, the schedule is noon to 6 p.m.
The goal is not to infringe on companies like AAA, Talbot said, but to prevent the congestion that often results from disabled vehicles.
“We need to address that continued congestion, and this is one way we can try to get cars off to the side, off to the shoulder,” he said.
AutoBase has provided emergency breakdown service on the Maine Turnpike since 2016. Most of the service is sponsored by automotive insurance provider State Farm. But Peter Mills, the authority’s executive director, said the department is now paying for one additional patrol vehicle, although he did not immediately know how much that cost.
The state’s program also has different seasonal hours and operates mostly along the southern part of the turnpike.
“When there’s an accident, you need people getting there immediately to control the scene so there isn’t a second accident,” Mills said. “It’s been a real asset to the road.”
AutoBase operates in other areas of the country including New York, Maryland, Washington, D.C,, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Florida.