FREEPORT — A year after a controversial tree removal project, almost 150 trees and shrubs will be planted on properties near Interstate 295 to obscure the highway view and noise of the highway.
The Town Council on Tuesday approved hiring Rosengren Landscaping of Freeport to complete the work for just over $18,660. The plantings are expected to be in the ground by Nov. 15.
In May 2015, the Maine Department of Transportation clear-cut trees along a 6-mile stretch of highway from Freeport to Brunswick. The project 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 of the project until it was underway.
The action led to complaints from nearby residents, who criticized the removal of the 75-foot deep buffer between homes and the highway and received an apology from MDOT.
In November of 2015, MDOT officials had discussions with residents about how the sights and sounds of the Interstate could be muted. In June of this year, MDOT offered the town $20,000 to create a barrier on the town side of a chain link fence that runs along I-295.
The town issued a request for proposals at the beginning of the month with a deadline of Oct. 12. According to Town Engineer Adam Bliss, five proposals were received, and Rosengren was the low bidder.
Rosengren will plant more than 100 trees and more than 45 rhododendrons along eight properties affected by last year’s tree removal. The trees and shrubs will be planted along 54-55 Elm St., 14 Cardinal Lane, 9 True St., 25 Kendall St., and 3 and 10 Blueberry Lane.
The eighth property is a town-owned right-of-way at the end of Blueberry Lane.
Unused funds will be returned to the state, according to Town Manager Peter Joseph.
Freeport has hired Rosengren Landscaping to plant greenery that will reduce traffic noise following last year’s removal by the state of trees and brush along Interstate 295.