Maine Department of Transportation officials will return this month to a stretch of Interstate 295 between Portland and Brunswick to thin out trees in an effort to improve safety along the busy highway.

Crews will cut trees during the daytime along the north and southbound lanes of I-295 between mile marker 14 in Cumberland and mile market 21 in Freeport, the MDOT said in a statement Thursday. No lanes will be closed, but motorists are advised to be on alert.

Transportation officials already have met with town leaders in Yarmouth and Freeport and plan to meet with residents who may be affected. Last spring, the state agency was criticized for removing roughly 37 acres of trees along a stretch of 295 in Freeport without notifying nearby homeowners ahead of time. Some residents said the clear-cutting removed a sound buffer and made their homes visible from the highway.

Officials were forced to apologize for the lack of communication, but said the tree removal was necessary.

This time, the transportation department has maps of the planned tree cutting available at the town offices in Yarmouth and Freeport, and at its regional office in Scarborough. The project will be completed sometime in August.

Duane Brunell, a safety manager for the state agency, said tree cutting is important for a number of reasons, including allowing sun to shine on the road to help melt snow and ice, and to provide a safe zone if a vehicle leaves the road.

Since June 26, there have been five fatalities statewide caused by motorists hitting a trees, the department of transportation said.