Roads are whose problem?

TREMONT — Winter weather this year caused more washouts, collapsed culverts and ice buildup on the roads in town than usual, members of the Board of Selectmen said at their June 3 meeting.

How much of the needed repair and maintenance work is the responsibility of the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT), and how much is up to the town?

“I’ve had several complaints about collapsed culverts,” Selectman Mike Mansolilli said, “There’s one on my property. I don’t think the DOT is handling it properly.” He suggested the selectmen draft a letter expressing concern about the condition of the roads.

Tremont has 15.24 miles of town roads, 6.32 miles of National Park Service roads and only 0.19 miles of state highway. The remaining 10.89 miles of public roads are classified as state-aid highway, which means the town and state share responsibility for maintenance.

State-aid roads are maintained by Maine DOT in the summer and by the municipalities in the winter. That means the town is responsible for snow plowing and applying salt and sand. DOT, as Selectman Jamie Thurlow put it, is “on the hook for paving once every seven years.” Other maintenance work, such as the ditching and culvert work currently needed in many places in Tremont, is also normally the responsibility of the DOT.

In a memo to the selectmen, Town Manager Chris Saunders said he had discussed culvert replacement on Tremont Road with DOT’s regional engineers last month.

“They agreed that the Hodgdon Road culvert should be replaced ‘at some point,’” he wrote, “and said that while there, it would also make sense to replace state culverts on Rumill Road, Dodge Point Road and Dix Point Road.”

Saunders said that they did not discuss a timeline, but he planned to follow up with the engineers every two weeks until a plan is in place to address the culvert.

Mansolilli suggested the selectmen write a letter to DOT laying out concerns that ice buildup and other problems present threats to safety. Other selectmen said Saunders’ continued calls with the engineers might be more effective.

The board approved a motion to ask Saunders to “see if the state is willing to reimburse [the town] for some ditch work and culvert replacement.”

They also discussed whether there’s any possibility of upgrading the state-aid roads to state highway status. The designation is made according to state and federal classification systems and is based on traffic counts, trip lengths and the position of the road in the overall highway system. None of that is likely to change.

Saunders also said any major work would probably have to be funded through DOT’s Municipal Partnership Initiative for state and state-aid highways, in which the state provides up to $500,000 for projects with an equal contribution from the town.

On town roads, the town crew is working this summer on ditching and culverts on several roads. Bids are due next week on a request for tree removal along Dodge Point Road; after that work is done, the road crew will be able to work on ditching there. The town will rent an excavator from Eagle Rental in Waterville for $2,700 per month for these projects.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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