THOMASTON — Thomaston residents came out in force Oct. 21 to comment on plans for a new “North Road” or east/west highway through the town.

Several expressed concerns that the new road would mean taking their property, decreasing safety and reducing property values.

The session, held in the Lura Libby Room at the Thomaston Municipal Building, was standing room only.

Town officials said this project has been in the works for multiple years, and that it would solve major traffic problems. Engineers estimate it would cost between $11.5 and $14.8 million.

Most of the residents who spoke voiced opposition to the plan.

Joanne Richards said she was concerned with where the road was going and the cost of the road and the studies.

Richards said she did not get a chance to vote on the initial $20,000 spent on the feasibility study that has already been done, and the rest of the studies will likely cost more than that.

A lot of her arguments against this project were related to the cost, Richards said.

Alan Leo of Beechwood Street said he thought the town had more important things to spend their money on.

Leo expressed concern the road would be a “racetrack” and would create unsafe roads for pedestrians and children.

Leo also spoke to the comprehensive plan’s assertion that this road was necessary to provide an alternate route for emergency vehicles.

As an Emergency Medical Technician driver, Leo said they did not need an extra road for emergency vehicles. Their vehicles had sirens and were able to bypass traffic already.

His perception was this emergency vehicles comment was “smoke and mirrors playing for a sympathy vote,” and meant to instill fear of voting against this road. “If I vote no, I might not get an ambulance,” he said.

Neal DeYoung said he has a house on Main Street and owns Flipside Coffee in downtown Thomaston. “This will absolutely kill our business,” DeYoung said.

John Eaton, a member of the comprehensive plan committee, said the group looked at other towns that were struggling with Route 1, and this road seemed like the only solution.

Eaton said Broadway in Rockland was the model. “Did that kill downtown?” he asked.

Holly Spicer, who lives on Beechwood Street, said she knew about this proposed road when she moved there, but wondered why the town wanted to add another road for drivers to speed on.

Spicer said she knew people who had put home sales on hold because of the North Road project.

Frank Devlin said the town should repair other roads, like Knox Street, before building new ones.

Todd Gundlach said there was “no way” he would have purchased his house if he had known about this road. Gundlach wondered what the motive was for building this road, and if the town was more concerned about the homes on Main Street than the homes this road would disturb.

Moderator Mike Mayo warned Gundlach about his tone of voice, and that he might lose the microphone.

Gundlach said he was not responsible for how Mayo interpreted his tone.

Anson Norton wondered who would pay for maintenance of the road. Neither the town nor Maine DOT had the money to build this road nor maintain it.

How would the town prevent large trucks from continuing to use Main Street instead of this new road, Norton asked.

Norton ended his comments by saying that traffic downtown was only bad at certain times, and this could be fixed by changing the timing of the traffic lights. This comment drew applause from the crowd.

Matt Bonner, who lives downtown, said he agreed it was loud on Main Street, but he was more concerned that the plans for the road cut through the Thomaston Town Forest. This forest is a terrific community resource, Bonner said.

Jean Short, a member of the comprehensive plan committee, said she had heard some good comments from the public on this issue, but wondered where all these people were the last three years while the town was looking for volunteers to create this plan.

“It was like pulling teeth,” she said.

Short said though she was a supporter of free press, she felt the newspaper had stirred all this up. She said she placed the blame on the newspaper.

She also said she was dismayed to hear residents speaking against the plans so many volunteers worked so hard on.

Kimi Smith said she did not read the newspaper, and did not have time to volunteer for committees with her work scheduled.

Smith said these plans included taking all her land, though.

Susan Devlin said she did not want to wait until the plans were finished to vote on this issue. She was not able to vote on the initial $20,000 spent on the study, but a vote should be held before more money was spent on this project.

Devlin said she did not feel that the comprehensive plan, which included multiple projects, was justification for spending that money on a study without consulting the voters.

The information session featured background information from the comprehensive plan committee, a presentation of the study by Dirigo Engineering and a public comment session moderated by Mayo.

Ben Griffin, a member of the comprehensive plan committee, gave background on the project. The construction of this road is not a new idea, he said. It has been discussed for many years.

Griffin said the committee gave numerous, well-advertised opportunities for the public to have input in the plan.

Surveys completed by Thomaston residents, which the committee used to create the plan, indicated that heavy traffic through town was a major problem, Griffin said.

Since then the town has seen heavier and heavier traffic on Route One, so now it is time for the town to look into this road construction.

Pollution Control Superintendent John Fancy said it was important to have as much public input as possible for this project.

Fancy said this road has been included in the comprehensive plans of 1991 and 2005.

This is not a bypass, Fancy said. This is a local road that will open the town for traffic and development.

The feasibility study completed by Dirigo Engineering is only a first step, he said. This is not a final design, and any construction was far in the future.

Timothy Sawtelle of Dirigo Engineering presented the maps with possible routes for this road.

Sawtelle said the company utilized existing road as much as possible in these plans. One plan included roundabouts at Oyster River Road and Beechwood Street. These were to calm or slow traffic coming off those streets, Sawtelle said.

The plans also included widening existing roads.

Sawtelle added it would be “many years” before this project happened.

Mayo thanked the public for their participation, and said there would be further meetings in the future.

The public information session for the Thomaston North Road is standing room only, Oct. 21. Photo by Dan Dunkle

Thomaston resident Wayne Stinson speaks about the North Road plans during the information session Oct. 21. Photo by Christine Simmonds

From left: Thomaston Select Board members Pete Lammert, Bill Hahn and Zel Bowman-Leberge take notes on the public comments during the North Road information session Oct. 21. Photo by Christine Simmonds

Map 1 of a proposed North Road in Thomaston. Map by Dirigo Engineering

Map 2 of a proposed North Road in Thomaston. Map by Dirigo Engineering

Map 3 of a proposed North Road in Thomaston. Map by Dirigo Engineering

Map 4 of a proposed North Road in Thomaston. Map by Dirigo Engineering

Map 5 of a proposed North Road in Thomaston. Map by Dirigo Engineering

Map 6 of a proposed North Road in Thomaston. Map by Dirigo Engineering