When the trees vanish, road construction can’t be too far behind.

Turner-based K & K Excavation started work last fall on a 2.8-mile construction project on the River Road (Route 15) in Orrington. At a projected cost of $7.5 million, the project will stretch from the railroad crossing near the Orrington Animal Pound to the railroad crossing just north of South Orrington Village.

“It’s the final phase of the widening” of Route 15, said Orrington Town Manager Paul E. White.

Delayed for five years, the project “went out to bid in June of ’11,” he said. After the bids were opened in August, the Maine Department of Transportation awarded $4.5 million to K & K Excavation to rebuild the road. The additional $3 million covers additional expenses, such as replacing utility poles and restringing utility wires.

“The plan for this fall was the taking down of trees. That’s done,” White said. “Now they’re preparing to replace the [utility] poles. Some of that is being done.”

According to White, the 2.8-mile section “is the last part of Route 15 to be reconstructed from Bucksport to the Brewer line. It’s needed it for a long time. I would describe that [section] as an accident waiting to happen.

“It’s a major corridor … heavily traveled, traffic moves right along,” he said. A major upgrade underway at Verso Paper in Bucksport will see more trucks hauling biomass south through Orrington; “this project will make the road capable of safely handling 100,000-pound trucks,” White said.

“In the next couple of years, we’re going to see an increase in [truck] traffic with the remediation of the Holtrachem site” north of Orrington Center, he indicated.

The project will entail “a total reconstruction,” from “filling the dips” to “the widening of the road with breakdown lanes,” White said. The road will have two 12-foot-wide travel lanes, each abutted by a 6-foot-wide breakdown lane. The contractor will replace the culverts and “soften” a few curves.

According to White, the state “took only one property” along the road’s right of way. The road “will be shifted slightly to the east” to avoid impacting the historic Orrington Animal Pound, he said.

White does not believe that the project will significantly impact travel time through Orrington. “There are no plans at this point for rerouting traffic. There will be one lane open at all times,” he said.

The project’s scheduled completion is late December, according to White. The project is fully funded by the MDOT and the federal government.

Next spring, work will resume on a town-financed project on the Mill Creek Road in South Orrington. The town maintains a five-year road plan, White explained, and selectmen approved rebuilding the Mill Creek Road during fiscal year 2012.

White plans to present Orrington selectmen with a detailed proposal to “do a partial reconstruction” of the Snow’s Corner Road during FY 2013, which begins on July 1, 2012, he indicated. This project would encompass removing ledge, replacing culverts, and repaving the Snow’s Corner Road between the Dow Road and the Johnson Mill Road.

This particular project would be the first roadwork financed by TIF (tax increment financing) funds that Orrington has set aside since voters approved the town’s first’s TIF district in 2008. The TIF funds “are placed in a reserve account specifically for infrastructure improvements,” White said. “The money is available for this project.”

He will also present to selectmen a proposal to partially rebuild and repave the Long Hill Road, a project that would be funded by Orrington during FY 2013. According to White, the town annually budgets funds for road maintenance; with the Mill Creek Road project being completed this spring, “we are looking at the Long Hill Road as the next town road that needs to be redone,” he said.

According to White, the three local road projects would cost an accumulative $700,000.