The 511 system was designed to help commuters and travelers avoid traffic problems.

BAR HARBOR (AP) – The state is revising plans to post highway congestion reports on the state’s 511 travel system after members of the Bar Harbor business community chided the plan.

The 511 system was designed to help commuters and travelers avoid traffic problems by listening to traffic reports and other travel information on the 511 phone line and Web site.

But state transportation officials said Monday they will post traffic reports only in the context of an emergency, road construction or accidents – not just congestion. They said they never intended for 511 to discourage tourists from visiting some of Maine’s most popular summer destinations and events.

Clare Bingham, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased that congestion advisories would not be posted on the system, which was launched last week. But that didn’t stop her from calling it “the most anti-coastal community, anti-tourism, anti-business project I’ve ever seen.”

Bingham raised a ruckus about the congestion reports over the weekend and caught up with Gov. John Baldacci in Bar Harbor on Monday to complain.

By the end of the day, state Transportation Commissioner David Cole, after hearing directly from Baldacci, said 511 would not post advisories about traffic jams or crowded parking lots based solely on traffic congestion.

“It’s our intention to work with the industry and communities to make sure this can be used as an effective tool and not a deterrent in any way,” Cole said.

The state was going to post congestion advisories on the Route 1 coastal corridor in the same way the Maine Turnpike Authority alerts motorists about congestion in southern Maine.

Cole said the department didn’t think that would be anything people would be concerned about.

But Bingham and other business advocates said the congestion reports could discourage tourists from visiting Bar Harbor and other tourism destinations, including Acadia National Park.

The Federal Communications Commission designed 511 as the national traveler information phone number. Maine is one of eight states sharing the cost to design and develop the system.


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