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South Portland Land Trust exploring 'bridge in a backpack' for Long Creek

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South Portland Land Trust exploring 'bridge in a backpack' for Long Creek

SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Land Trust recently received two grants from the Maine Community Foundation to assist its efforts to build a bike and pedestrian bridge over Long Creek.

The grants, totalling more than $6,000, will be used to explore new cost effective bridge designs and create targeted promotional tools.

"We are grateful to the Maine Community Foundation for supporting the SPLT in pursuing this important bicycle and pedestrian project," SPLT President Richard Rottkov said in a press release.

More than $2,500 of the grant came form the Fund for Maine Land Conservation, and the remaining $3,500 came from the Dudley Charitable Fund.

Rottkov said a subcommittee of the Land Trust will partner with the Engineering Department at the University of Maine, Orono and Advanced Infrastructure Technologies to explore using a new "bridge in a backpack" to traverse Long Creek near Exit 3 on Interstate 295.

Rottkov said the group hopes to receive a grant from the Maine Technologies Institute that could help pay for the bridge in a backpack technology, which involves strong, but flexible, sheaths filled with concrete – a method that is less expensive and longer lasting than traditional bridge designs. 

The technology gets its name based on the fact that the materials for one arch of a bridge fit into a hockey equipment-size duffel bag.

According to the UMO Web site, flat, hollow tubes made of carbon fiber are unrolled and placed on a steel formwork. The tubes are inflated, taking on the shape of the formwork, and infused with a resin, researchers say is twice as strong as steel.

The estimated 600-foot long bridge would cross Long Creek near the southern boundary of the Portland International Jetport, requiring a trail be built along Interstate 295 southbound. The trail would connect to South Portland's Jetport Plaza Road using an existing trail and a road planned for Brick Hill.

The project received the endorsement of the South Portland City Council, which commissioned a feasibility study about the project. The Portland International Jetport and the Maine Department of Transportation, both of which own land where the bridge would be placed, have also signed-off on the project. 

Pedestrian and bike advocates believe that building a bridge to connect trails on the east end of the city with a steadily growing trail network in the west end will be a "game changer" in terms of alternative transportation for the region.

The land trust has also partnered with Portland Trails and the cities of Portland and South Portland to submit a multi-million dollar grant application to fund the bridge project, estimated to cost $5.5 million.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net