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State eyes replacement of Route 1 bridge between Portland, Falmouth

News

State eyes replacement of Route 1 bridge between Portland, Falmouth

FALMOUTH — The Maine Department of Transportation will conduct a public meeting this month to discuss replacement beginning in 2012 of the Martin Point Bridge, which carries Route 1 traffic over the Presumpscot River between Portland and Falmouth.

Built in 1943, the 1,400-foot bridge has been determined to be in poor condition since at least 2003, DOT Project Manager Nate Benoit said.

An Oct. 28, 2008, inspection revealed the superstructure, which includes the steel beams and concrete decks, rated a 4 out of 9. A rating of 3 indicates critical condition and would require posting for weight, Benoit said.

The deck was replaced in 1985 and is considered to be in good condition, he said, but the beams have "significant rusting and deterioration" from water and salt getting into the joints.

Though some periodic work has been done on the pilings, the bridge's substructure also rated a 4, plagued by wood rot and splintering, he said.

The 2008 inspection also determined the bridge's sufficiency rating, 50.1 in 2003 on a scale of 100, had dropped to 34.7, Benoit said.

Typically, MDOT inspects bridges every two years, he said, but when their condition begins to deteriorate, inspections are stepped up to an annual cycle.

Calling the upcoming meeting part of MDOT's "fact-finding phase," Benoit said its purpose will be to answer questions, listen to concerns and comments, and determine the impact closing the bridge and rerouting traffic to Interstate 295 would have on residents and businesses.

"There is no decision yet regarding the bridge," and the first step, he said, is completion of a traffic model to determine if closure is feasible.

"The cheapest option is closure, by far," Benoit said. "There's tremendous savings and it's the fastest option. But that certainly has an impact on the community."

Another option would be to build in phases, a choice that would add 20 percent to 30 percent to the cost, he said. And a third option would create a temporary or parallel bridge that would cost more money and have potential environmental impact, because of additional disturbance to the water.

Whatever is decided, Benoit said MDOT plans to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians and, with that in mind, is considering expanding the pedestrian area and widening the shoulders.

Road width of the current bridge is 44 feet, with a 6-foot sidewalk and barrier, bringing its total width to 54 feet. A new bridge will likely be narrower, he said, even with increased pedestrian access, because the original was initially designed for four lanes of vehicle traffic.

A preliminary cost estimate for tearing down the existing bridge and replacing it is $30 million, Benoit said. Because of its poor condition, it would be cost-prohibitive to repair, he said.

Though it has not yet been funded for construction, the cost will most likely be paid for with federal bridge money. The project would take 2 1/2 years, Benoit estimated.

"If we do staged construction, it will take longer than that. ... I would say maybe three years if in stages," he said.

The preliminary public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25, in the gymnasium of D.W. Lunt School on Lunt Road in Falmouth.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.