The state Department of Transportation is more than halfway through an extensive tree- and shrub-cutting project along a busy stretch of I-295 in Freeport.

The project is a couple of years overdue because money originally earmarked for the project was diverted to other work, said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the department. He said the department regularly cuts back plant growth to give drivers a wider field of sight in case an animal runs from the woods onto the road, and also to allow more sunshine on the highway in the winter to help melt snow and ice.

“Quite frankly, we let it go too long,” Talbot said. He laughed when asked whether the work was to prepare for a road-widening project.

John Cannell, MDOT’s southern region manager, said the crews of the contractor, Drew Corp. of Center Lovell, recently completed clearing growth along northbound lanes from mile 22 to mile 29. Crews have now moved to the southbound lanes of the same stretch of highway. Drew Corp. was awarded the work after bidding $205,000 for the project.

Crews are doing the work at night, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., Cannell said, but they might stop a little earlier on the southbound lanes if morning commuter traffic gets heavy.

Cannell said the maximum width of the “clear zone” is about 100 feet, but that’s guided by terrain and the height of the growth. The goal, Cannell said, is to replace the trees and shrub growth with grass that can be controlled by mowing.

Most of the wood and brush that’s cleared is being chipped. Cannell said it’s up to the Drew Corp. to dispose of that material, but he believes the chips are being used to fuel a biomass boiler.

Cannell also said the original MDOT plan was to continue clearing the sides of I-295 into Brunswick, but the bid for that more extensive work was beyond MDOT’s budget.


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