DOT says Camden Route 1 reconstruction plans are set

By Susan Mustapich | Jul 10, 2018
Courtesy of: Alison McKellar Owners of property abutting a 1.5 mile section of Route 1 scheduled for reconstruction and interested community members viewed what DOT calls final plans for construction at a July 9 meeting in Camden.

CAMDEN — Maine Department of Transportation representatives met with around 20 owners of property abutting a 1.5 mile section of Route 1 scheduled for reconstruction, during an open house July 9, and held a public hearing afterward for the general public.

The $5.5 million highway reconstruction involves rebuilding the roadbed and drainage systems, two 11-foot lanes with five-foot paved shoulders, and a $2.5 million rebuild of Spring Brook Bridge that will raise the roadway by seven feet. The reconstruction begins north of Camden Hills State Park and continues to the Lincolnville town line.

The meeting took place at the Camden-Rockport Middle School cafeteria, at 24 Knowlton St.

During the two-hour open house, DOT representatives met one-on-one with abutters to discuss detailed construction plans and impacts on individual properties in the right-of-way area surrounding the highway.

At the public hearing held after the open house, DOT representatives addressed the process they follow with abutters and responded to audience questions.

MDOT Senior Property Officer Luther Yonce discussed the right-of-way process. Yonce said the bulk of work is within the existing right-of-way. A map will be completed that will outline work outside of the right-of-way. Property owners will receive notification letters from DOT, and can make appointments with an appraiser, who will inspect the properties, to measure impact and damages compensable under state law. Negotiations with property owners and offers will follow, he said. Owners compensated will receive certified checks for settlement amounts, or offer-letters to those property owners who have not settled with DOT. Eminent domain proceedings can follow if settlements are not reached, Yonce explained. He said the majority of owners reach settlements with DOT. Trees taken down will be compensated at real estate values of land under the tree cover. Any property features, such as a sign or lamppost, inside of the existing right-of-way are considered encroachments, and cannot be compensated, he said. If the sign or lamppost on a property is outside the right-of-way, but has to be moved during construction, the feature will be removed and reset, or compensated.

DOT project manager Ernie Martin said the right-of-way process will take 12-14 months. He would like to advertise the construction project for bid in August 2019, and have trees cut in the winter months. The plan is for the contractor to begin construction in spring 2020. While the bridge components for the Spring Brook Bridge replacement can be prepared, environmental restrictions will not allow work at the brook to begin until mid-July of any year. Martin said the plan is to complete the highway reconstruction by September 2021.

The construction plans are done, according to Martin. There may be tweaks, but no major tweaks, he said.

In response to a question from Jane LeFleur, Martin stated the five-foot width of the highway shoulder will not be modified. He said that reducing the shoulders to four feet will not save additional trees. LaFleur objected to the five-foot shoulder, stating it will increase highway speed and not increase safety.

An audience member asked if tree removal would occur along the entire construction area at the same time.

Martin stated that it would. Tree removal is the first step he said, and if it can be done as planned, utility poles can then be set.

Nancy Caudle-Johnson asked when DOT would sign a memorandum of understanding with the town of Camden for the construction project. Martin replied that there would be no memorandum for this construction project.

Caudle-Johnson pointed out the Camden's Comprehensive Plan calls for the preservation of shade trees along the Route 1 corridor. She noted the local plan is approved by the state, and is a state document. She asked how  DOT could disregard this.

On this section of state highway, DOT follows federal highway guidelines, and is not required to take a town's comprehensive plan into consideration, according to Martin.  "We are making improvements to make Route 1 safer and are doing the best we can to maintain its integrity," he said.

Jean Boyce who lives on Route 1 said she appreciates DOTs plans and the width of the shoulders. She states that she walks along the road, and it is not safe now.

Jenny Simmons asked if DOT would paint bicycle symbols on the paved shoulders. Martin reacted favorably to the idea.

Alison McKellar asked if crosswalks would be added to the project. Martin responded that because there are no sidewalks along the construction section, no crosswalks are planned.

Richard Bernhard, member of the Route 1 North Advisory Committee, spoke in favor of the Select Board meeting with the landscape architect to go over features important to the town.

On July 10, Tony Grassi, chairman of the Route 1 North committee, said that while DOT has made significant improvements to its original plans, "there's a way to go yet." He termed it irresponsible and unresponsive for DOT to state that its plans are set, when its representatives have not yet met with the Select Board or Route 1 North committee. He believes there are tweaks that can be made to improve DOT's plan. The committee will  recommend five or so improvements, according to Grassi.

The Camden Select Board plans to hold a workshop to explain the DOT construction plan in detail both for the benefit of new board members and for the public. Scheduling this workshop is on the board's July 10 agenda.

Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said July 10 that DOT representatives have agreed to meet with the Select Board. The date of this meeting has not yet been set.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 11, 2018 13:04

And so it goes. Big Brother intervening and the law will be set. Little Camden Village does not stand a chance!

And this too is progress????

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