AUGUSTA, Maine – If you drive along Interstate 95 in the nation’s far northeastern corner, “it’s trees, trees, trees” for mile after mile, says one motorist. So why not set the cruise control on 75 mph?
That’s what a lot of drivers have been doing for years, but now it’s legal on one lonesome stretch, making Maine the only state east of the Mississippi River where drivers aren’t breaking the law by driving 75 mph.
The new law authorizing the higher limit went on the books Wednesday, though it actually takes effect when new signs replace the old 65 mph ones next Tuesday.
The trees, bogs, potato fields and mountain vistas all might look a little blurrier at 75 mph, but drivers also will burn more fuel and risk more destructive accidents. Residents had asked for the change, saying no one obeyed the limit anyway, and their widespread disregard for the current limit hastened the bill’s passage.
“Up here, we’re isolated,” said Rick Castonguay, a real estate broker in Presque Isle. “Going down that stretch of the interstate, it’s pretty straight. It’s trees, trees, trees. You can literally sit on that road, set your cruise control and watch the trees go by.”
The new 75 mph zone covers an approximately 110-mile stretch of road between Old Town, which is a few miles north of Bangor, and Houlton.
The higher limit sets Maine apart from other eastern states, none of which lets drivers go that fast. About a dozen western states have 75 mph limits along rural interstates, and Texas even allows 85 mph on some segments, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.