FREEPORT — The Town Council accepted $20,000 from the Maine Department of Transportation to offset the effects of a tree-removal project completed last year along Interstate 295.
Councilors on Tuesday unanimously approved the agreement with little discussion. The money will be used to install fencing and landscaping on the town side of the fence that runs along I-295, but will not cover the cost of labor.
“Staff time is the only hard cost,” Town Manager Peter Joseph said.
In May of 2015, MDOT clear-cut trees along a 6-mile stretch of highway from Freeport to Brunswick, which removed a natural sound barrier between I-295 and nearby homes. After the trees were harvested, MDOT removed stumps and debris and planted grass.
MDOT officials told residents and councilors the trees were cut to improve sight lines for drivers, to allow more sunlight to fall on the road and accelerate snow and ice melt, and so animals are more easily seen before they enter the road. Town officials and residents have said they were unaware the project was planned until it was happening.
In November, MDOT officials had discussions with residents about how the sights and sounds of the interstate could be muted.
The $20,000 agreement was first offered by MDOT in early June, when the department outlined the landscaping project and included estimates for all the materials.
The trees will mostly be evergreens, with some hemlocks. Landscaping is estimated to cost $14,000-$15,000 and fencing is estimated at $4,000-$5,000.
The town has not decided where to buy materials. Last month, Joseph said the work should be done by the end of summer or in the fall.
The town will next enter into separate agreements with residents who will be impacted by the work, which will be done along eight properties at the ends of True and Elm streets, and Kendall Lane.
After the fence and landscaping are installed, they will become the responsibility of the residents.
Freeport will receive $20,000 from the state to plant trees and bushes on the town side of a fence built after last year’s clear-cutting of trees along Interstate 295.