MDOT to discuss Freeport tree-clearing, possible remedies

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FREEPORT — Maine Department of Transportation officials will meet with residents and town officials this week to follow up on a tree removal project done earlier this year along Interstate 295.

In May, MDOT clear-cut trees along a six-mile stretch of highway from Freeport to Brunswick, which removed a natural sound barrier between I-295 and nearby homes.

According to MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot, a discussion will be held either Thursday or Friday to talk about the work that has been done since then.

Since the initial cutting, MDOT has removed stumps and debris. Talbot said a contractor is seeding the area this week with the hope of having grass by springtime.

Although grass cover will make the area look cleaner and well groomed, Talbot said he understands Freeport residents are still upset that trees were cut back to property lines, exposing many homes to the sights and sounds of the interstate.

At a Town Council workshop in June, many residents expressed their anger and frustration to two MDOT officials who were present to explain why the work was done. 

Dale Doughty, of MDOT’s maintenance and operations department, and John Cannell, MDOT’s southern region manager, told residents and town councilors the trees were cut to improve sight lines for drivers, to allow more sun to shine on the road and melt snow and ice in the winter, and to make animals visible before they enter the roadway.

Town officials and residents have said they were unaware the project was scheduled until it was happening. On Tuesday, Talbot admitted MDOT could have alerted people sooner before the project started.

“In this case, quite frankly, we could have done more,” he said.

He said the work was done quickly and without warning because “that stretch needed to be done years ago.”

Talbot said he’s unsure when or where the meeting this week will be held, but it will probably be in a neighborhood that is now exposed to the road. He said MDOT will listen to ideas people have about ways to mitigate sound.

“Then we can collaborate and come up with a solution that is palatable for everyone,” he said.

Talbot said he’s not sure what the solution will be, but thinks people may ask for a line of trees to be put in along the highway fence.

“We’re listening to all options,” he said. “Nothing is off the table at this point, but we’ll need to work in conjunction with the town.”

Talbot said he’s not sure when a solution will be possible.

“It’s highly speculative at this point in terms of any kind of time table,” he said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The Maine Department of Transportation has been clearing out remaining debris along Interstate 295 in Freeport after clear-cutting the area last spring.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.