Camden neighborhood. (Photo by Wendell Greer)
Camden neighborhood. (Photo by Wendell Greer)
Camden residents with questions about rebuilding Route 1 from the state park to the Lincolnville town line wanted answers from the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) at Tuesday’s Camden Select Board meeting.

They didn’t get many. 

 Maine DOT project manager Ernie Martin said four items brought forward by the community-led Route 1 Committee had been approved: a reduction in speed limit to 45 miles per hour, eliminating rumble strips, using vegetation instead of hard surfaces along the roadside, and a review of whether passing zones could be eliminated.

 Committee members were frustrated by the partial response to their concerns over the impacts on specific trees and stone walls, overall scenic appeal, and protecting the Camden “brand.” Some committee members own land that will be affected by the project.

Martin said he was unable to answer specific questions about individual properties until after talking with owners.?The next step is an open, informal forum where DOT?staff and engineers can meet with Camden residents and landowners either one-on-one or in groups to go over plans, discuss options, and move forward in trying to integrate specific concerns into a final design. 

Camden officials said they would try to schedule the forum at the Camden-Rockport Middle School. Martin said he is aiming for mid-June, if the date and location can be scheduled  and timely legal notices posted. Martin agreed to meet separately with town officials and committee members on the same day. 

After integrating changes in the design, the DOT will hold a public meeting, probably in September.

“There are a lot of stakeholders for this route, not just landowners,” said Martin, noting that the state highway is used for commercial trucks and tourist traffic as well as local traffic. Martin said drainage and safety problems are real, with the bridges over Spring Brook and Clay Brook having  a remaining life span of no more than 10 years.

“I can tell you right now that not everything that everyone wants will end up in the final design,” said Martin. “It will be a compromise.” 

Camden resident Nancy Caudle-Johnson, who was in the audience, said she did not trust Maine DOT and wanted all conversations at the forum recorded. 

Select Board member Don White noted that the town and DOT have different goals: the DOT goal is to get traffic from here to there safely, and the town’s goal is to maintain the aesthetic character of the route and minimize change. He said citizen involvement is what led to an effective compromise with Maine DOT over rebuilding Route 1 (High Street) from downtown Camden to the state park. He supports a similar process for this project.

Martin agreed with the open-process approach but encouraged residents to examine a recently completed Maine DOT project in Windham for comparison, not High Street.

“This is a rural stretch of highway, with different concerns,” said Martin. “It will not be rebuilt like High Street.”

The project is scheduled to begin in 2018, but may be delayed until early 2019, said Martin.