PORTLAND — The Maine State Police trooper who usually patrols two interstate highways between Scarborough and Brunswick after midnight will be on the road a little later.
Sloppy weather and commuter accidents prompted officials to switch the patrol hours to earlier in the morning.
The move comes just six months after state police introduced overnight patrols along a 50-mile stretch of Interstates 295 and 95.
The shift change means the stretch of highway between Brunswick and Scarborough will remain largely unpoliced overnight, at least until spring.
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, explained that a trooper working the overnight shift patrolling I-95 from Brunswick to Gardiner will make nightly passes down to Scarborough and back. Full coverage won’t be restored until warmer weather arrives, McCausland said.
“It’s not a question of need. We feel a trooper is needed there overnight,” McCausland said. “It’s a question of allocating our resources appropriately. The trooper is needed for commuters.”
For day-to-day purposes, state police officials say there simply aren’t enough troopers to cover all shifts.
Although 37 troopers recently graduated from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, the department is still short 11 troopers, the result of too many years with too few people going through the academy.
In order to provide permanent round-the-clock patrols on the interstates, eight more troopers need to be added to the 336 authorized sworn personnel, McCausland said.
A budget request to add those eight troopers already has been made.
If the extra spending is approved, additional troopers could be on the road quickly, meaning officials may not have to juggle troopers’ schedules next year to provide overnight coverage on the highway.
The same stretch of highway has drawn attention for its lack of state police patrols. Last March 23, Gary Sledzik of Webster, Mass., careened down 42 miles of I-95 and I-295 before slamming his truck into several cars at a Scarborough toll plaza, killing a New Hampshire woman and her daughter.
The Sledzik case fostered considerable criticism of the state police, as it became known that no troopers patrolled long stretches of the highway after midnight. Also, state police failed to respond to calls from three concerned motorists who saw Sledzik’s driving and then telephoned police through the 911 system.
State police introduced overnight patrols on the highways after Sledzik’s accident. He is now serving a seven-year prison sentence.