CARIBOU, Maine — The new Caribou connector will open to vehicular traffic on Friday and the Maine Department of Transportation is joining the city’s parks and recreation department to throw a grand opening party.

The newly completed stretch of road connecting Route 161 and Route 1 just south of Caribou will open to foot and bicycle traffic at 10 a.m. on Friday, with the official ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. including remarks by David Bernhardt, Maine DOT commissioner.

The road then will open to vehicular traffic at 1 p.m.

The opening events are centered around the connector’s intersection with Route 161 and parking will be available.

“We thought it would be a good idea before the road opens to vehicular traffic if people had the opportunity to go over it at a slower pace,” Kathy Mazzuchelli, with Caribou Parks and Recreation, said Tuesday afternoon. “This will give folks a chance to see some of the new technology used in the construction.”

Spectators will have the opportunity to bike, walk, run or rollerblade 3.8 miles over four lanes of new roadway, Mazzuchelli said. Van tours will also be available.

Some of the key features incorporated into the new connector include a “critter crossing” for wildlife, a “Bridge-in-a-Backpack,” and specific drainage technology to meet environmental regulations.

“These things all make the connector very unique,” Mazzuchelli said. “These are things you might not see when you cross it at 50 miles per hour.”

The 3.8-mile-long, $20 million Caribou Connector was recommended as part of a larger Aroostook County Transportation Study.

Work began in 2010 on the connector, which begins just south of the Caribou Country Club on Route 161 and heads east, passes over Route 1 and again over Route 89 and continues west until it connects with routes 1 and 89 south of Bennett Drive.

Entrance and exit ramps are in place leading to and from Route 1, commonly called Van Buren Road in the area.

Funded jointly by the state and federal governments, the route was designed to minimize effects on existing downtown businesses and on agricultural operations.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.