The project would widen Foxcroft Road, adding paved walking and bicycling paths for tribal members to use.
Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Tribal Planner Brian Stewart talks to the Houlton Town Council about a major construction project along Foxcroft Road during the regular meeting Monday night. ( | Houlton Pioneer Times) Credit: Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli / BDN

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton Town Council approved a reconstruction agreement with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians during a Monday night meeting, granting the tribe a temporary construction easement for a section of Foxcroft Road.

As part of the Foxcroft Road improvements from U.S. Route 2, also known as Military Street, to the Littleton town line, walking and bicycling paved paths along the route will be constructed, according to Brian Stewart, tribal engineer and planner.

During the meeting, Stewart said that the existing narrow gravel shoulders along this section of the road are unsafe and make it difficult for members of the tribe to walk or bike from tribal facilities and housing. Additionally, this project is part of a federally designated bicycle route that requires paved shoulders.

Currently, this section of Foxcroft Road is 28 feet wide, including the gravel shoulders. The federally funded $15 million construction project would widen the road to 32 feet, including three- to five-foot paved shoulders.

Additionally, there will be a 2.5-mile section of sidewalk from the Maliseet Riverside Village to Military Street, effectively connecting tribal facilities to downtown, Stewart said.

As part of the agreement with the town, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians will pay the town annually for the sidewalk’s snow removal.

Several town councilors were concerned about Houlton’s ability to do this during a snowstorm. As part of the agreement, the town can contract out the snow removal if they are unable to do so, Stewart said. And Houlton Public Works Director Chris Stewart said the town would be able to handle the sidewalk maintenance.

Councilor Sue Tortello said that Foxcroft Road is an active all season ATV and snowmobile trail.

“How will those uses coexist with those sidewalks there?” Tortello asked.

Stewart said it is an ATV access route and it will continue to be following construction of the sidewalk.

Foxcroft Road, a state aid road shared with the town, is maintained by the Maine Department of Transportation and the town of Houlton.

Landowners along the route are being notified of the road construction, most of which falls into the current easement, according to Brian Stewart, the tribal engineer and planner. An appraiser will evaluate the properties affected to determine what the properties will be paid, he said.

There will be a public hearing on the construction in January 2024. Following that, the planners and engineers will finish the designs and easements before starting construction next summer.

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...