Freeport paving plan irks some Wardtown Road residents

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FREEPORT — Seemingly everyone can agree that Wardtown Road needs to be repaired.

But the exact nature of those repairs – and more specifically, whether and to what extent the road’s shoulders should be paved – was debated at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting during a public hearing on a proposed five-year capital budget.

The plan calls for $1 million to repair a 2.5-mile stretch of the pockmarked street, also known as Route 125, from Griffin Road to the intersection with Grant and Lunt roads. The Department of Transportation has agreed to fund half of that money through a municipal partnership initiative grant.

The plan calls also calls for an additional $300,000 to pave 3-foot-wide shoulders.

The town’s Active Living Task Force and others have called for 4-foot-wide paved shoulders to increase accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians. That extra foot could cost an additional $145,000, the council said Tuesday.

Lisa and Ralph Turner, who own and operate Laughing Stock Farm on Wardtown Road, led a group of more than a half-dozen of the street’s residents who expressed concerns that a paved shoulder could infringe upon their property.

“For many homes on (Route) 125, this could result in putting the back edge of (a) ditch on our front steps,” the Turners wrote in a letter to their neighbors, encouraging them to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Town Engineer Albert Presgraves said, “We will work with the abutting residents and owners to come up with a design to minimize impact as much as we can.”

Presgraves said paving the shoulder would help to maintain the road’s general repair work for a longer period of time, but that paving one or two feet of shoulder would have much the same maintenance effect as paving three or four feet.

While some attendees argued that a paved shoulder would increase safety for joggers and bikers, others argued that it would make no difference, or that it would actually decrease safety by encouraging motorists to drive faster.

Those on both sides of the shoulder debate agreed that the road’s 40-mph speed limit is too high. Several residents said they routinely see drivers going 10 and 20 mph above the limit, especially during morning and evening commutes. The road’s straightaways were also cited as a reason for the prevalence of speeding.

The Maine Department of Transportation has control over speed limits, but the council appeared open to requesting a state review of the road.

In a wrap-up conversation at the close of the meeting, the council as a whole expressed support for paving the road’s shoulders. A majority appeared to prefer a 3-foot shoulder over a 4-foot one for economic and logistical reasons.

The council is scheduled to vote on the adoption of the capital budget at its April 15 meeting.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.