Final Route 1 design discussion at May 16 Select Board meeting

DOT to Camden: safety trumps scenery

By Susan Mustapich | May 09, 2017
Courtesy of: Nancy Caudle-Johnson The owners of Birchwood Sustainable Lodging and Farmette on Route 1 in Camden have hung a yellow tag and note on a tree at their business in response to a utility company hang tag left on their door.

CAMDEN — The Maine Department of Transportation is emphasizing safety and maintenance over preserving trees and scenery in completing the final design for proposed reconstruction of a section of Route 1 north of Camden Hills State Park.

In an April 7 letter, DOT Project Manager Ernie Martin responded to a December 2016 letter from the town of Camden, making it clear that safety and maintaining the highway are "major considerations" for DOT. Camden's letter recommended highway design changes that would preserve the historic, rural and scenic characteristics on the section of Route 1 that extends from the state park to the Lincolnville town line.

Martin states that DOT is available to discuss the town of Camden's concerns during the remainder of the design process.

DOT representatives will attend the Tuesday, May 16 Camden Select Board meeting to discuss the finalization of highway design for a 1.54-mile section of Route 1 slated for construction in late 2018 or early 2019. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Washington Street Conference Room.

In the December 2016 letter to DOT, the town of Camden recommended reducing the width of paved shoulders from 5 feet to 4 feet; raising the road at Springbrook Hill 4 to 5 feet instead of the 7 feet DOT recommends; drainage work only where it is needed; underground pipe drainage to eliminate the impact of drainage construction on properties on the east side of Route 1; and clear-zone exceptions or underground drainage in six areas within the 1.54-mile construction zone, instead of excavating to build ditch and swale-type drainage along the entire stretch of road.

Camden's letter was based on recommendations from the Route 1 North Advisory Committee and was endorsed by a majority of the Select Board with a 4 to 1 vote in December 2016.

Select Board chairman John French cast the sole vote against the letter. He maintained that DOT's plans to raise the roadway 7 feet in the area of Springbrook Hill and to build 5 foot shoulders along the reconstructed highway are safer for drivers.

"The proposed approach in your letter for spot or localized fixes will not achieve the desired outcome of lasting, and cost effective improvements," Martin states in the Apri 7 letter. DOT's "major considerations for our project are to improve maintainability and safety of this corridor for all users," he said.

Martin explains that DOT has collaborated with the town of Camden and made "some positive changes to the design."

"These changes have allowed the design to meet the purpose and need of the project while minimizing impacts to abutters and the characteristics of the road. MDOT has previously instituted a number of design exceptions to be sensitive to the context of the project setting," Martin wrote

In July 2016, DOT modified its construction plans in response to requests from the town of Camden's Route 1 North Advisory Committee. DOT reduced the size of the clear zone around the highway to 15 feet, down from their standard of 26 feet, reduced catch basins along the road from 12 to three, and reduced asphalt curbing from 2,390 linear feet to 620 linear feet.

DOT assessed that these changes would reduce the cutting of trees measuring 12 or more inches in diameter to 44 down from 62, and reduce tree stump removal to 57, down from 73.

DOT also promised to move "a few" stone walls that are within the modified clear zone. This involves picking up the wall stones and putting them back down outside of the right-of-way.

Martin's April 7 letter agrees to an additional three items requested by the town in December: to not install rumble strips, to review passing zones as part of the design process, and to use turf reinforcement mats and vegetated rip rap at the collection and discharge areas of new under road drainage pipes.

DOT has also agreed to reduce the speed limit on the reconstructed highway from 50 mph to 45 mph. The town of Camden initiated the request to reduce the speed limit, and secured DOT's agreement to conduct a speed study. The results of the DOT speed study resulted in the lower speed limit. Speed limit is a factor in highway design, and lower speed limits require less tree cutting.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.

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