Supporters of Causeway stones urged to attend meeting

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen are strongly urging anyone who wants to see the granite stones on the Moose Pond Causeway preserved to attend a public meeting set for Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Bridgton Municipal Complex.

At the board’s Nov. 24 meeting, Chairman Bernie King said the upcoming public meeting is the town’s last hope of convincing Maine Department of Transportation officials not to replace the stone blocks with a metal guardrail as part of a highway improvement project.

MDOT already held a meeting in Bridgton on Nov. 16, attended with town officials and two citizens, but that meeting wasn’t advertised as required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, King said. When he and others at that meeting realized MDOT wasn’t interested in discussing alternatives to a metal guardrail, they decided to force the issue and require a second meeting that would be publicly advertised.

“It was very plain they weren’t interested in any other alternative to removing those blocks,” said King of MDOT engineers. Also present were representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, Maine Historic Preservation and Bridgton Historical Society. “We came away from that meeting very disheartened with the attitude of MDOT.”

King said MDOT summarily dismissed several suggestions to satisfy MDOT’s safety concerns, while at the same time preserving the scenic stones that line both sides of the Route 302 highway overlooking Moose Pond. Alternatives included lowering the speed limit and/or creating a no-passing zone, and narrowing the shoulder so that cars cannot be parked on the Causeway.

“In the state of Maine, you can’t pass on a bridge, yet they have a dotted line (along the Causeway, a type of bridge), so they’re violating the law in that aspect,” he said. King said, when the state engineers kept citing the potential for serious accidents without a guardrail system in place, he brought up how, when he served as a Bridgton Police Officer, the granite stones actually stopped a tractor trailer from going into the water,

“They brushed that aside,” said King. “So that’s why this public meeting is very, very important. If we come away from it, and they’re still going to do it, well, at least we tried. That’s part of Bridgton’s history, they were put in there in 1953, and there’s been no problem with them at all.”

The FHA has stated that the Causeway is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Some residents, including Dr. Bruce Clary, have argued that eligibility gives a strong reason for MDOT to make an exception to its standard policy of straight guardrail replacement during highway reconstruction projects.

Town Manager Bob Peabody also noted that the minutes produced by MDOT of the Nov. 16 meeting “don’t accurately portray the level of concern that that town brought to the table.”

Selectman Bob McHatton, who brought up the issue, also urged residents to come voice their concerns at the Dec. 15 meeting. But he said it appears certain a guardrail will be installed on both sides of the Causeway.

“I’ll tell you right now that the state pretty much told us point blank that they are going to put in a guardrail,” McHatton said. “The question is, what type of guardrail, how many stones are going to be left out there, and how the whole Causeway will look after they’re all done.”

McHatton noted that MDOT recently agreed to extend a two-way center turning lane on Route 302 to Brag Way, in response to concerns expressed at a meeting in Bridgton attended by several selectmen and representatives from Macdonald Motors. “So, as you saw with (that), the more people who come out, the state may be willing to work with the town and come up with the best solution,” he said.

Social media also ought to be utilized to spread the word about the meeting, said Selectman Ken Murphy, suggesting a campaign of “Spread the word — keep the stones at Moose Pond Causeway.”

 

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