SCARBOROUGH — When it comes to work on the Pine Point Road bridge spanning the Pam Am railroad tracks, timing is everything.
The actual work to refurbish or replace the bridge is at least two years away, but the dozen people who attended an informational meeting at the Municipal Building on Wednesday evening made it clear to Maine Department of Transportation officials that any work should not be done in the summer.
“Don’t worry, I was down there today,” MDOT Project Engineer Doug Coombs said in response to concerns about how bridge work would affect the only direct route to Pine Point and Grand Avenue.
Coombs and MDOT Project Engineer Stephen Bodge are seeking public comment on what needs to be done to improve or replace the 57-year-old span during preliminary engineering work.
The initial stage will cost $270,000, Coombs said, but there are no available estimates on construction work or a work schedule because the department has not yet determined what needs to be done.
“When scope is defined, the actual cost can be discussed,” he said.
Coombs said the bridge has been inspected about once every two years and shows no cause for safety worries. But whether it is renovated or rebuilt, any project presents a lot of complications.
If Pine Point Road is closed for bridge work, drivers would be detoured through Old Orchard Beach or along Ross Road to reach Pine Point or U.S. Route 1.
Coombs said the work schedule can be arranged in the construction contract.
“We do try to work around these things,” he said.
Keeping the road partially open could alleviate the detour, but take more time – a critical element if construction begins before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
Delays on the road above will also be compounded by rail traffic below; Coombs said any work with heavy equipment has to halt when trains pass. The rails are used by Pan Am freight trains and at least eight daily trips by the Amtrak Downeaster.
Coombs said the contractors on the job will have to station flaggers on the road and rails, which adds to the project’s cost.
The four-beam span over the tracks was built in 1955, and is 200 feet long and 28 feet wide from curb to curb. Coombs said a preliminary inspection has suggested the steel beams do not need replacement.
If the assessment changes, the bridge height will have to be increased 3 1/2 feet from the current 19 feet because current federal law requires new bridges to stand at least 22 1/2 feet over railroad tracks.
No matter what engineers and planners determine, Coombs said funding for work will not be available until the 2014-2015 work cycle and the project will be competing against other proposed jobs.
Evaluations of need, traffic served and bridge condition will play into the funding decision, he said.
Coombs and Bodge continue to invite public comment about the bridge and what needs to be done. This includes thoughts about making the bridge more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Coombs can be reached 215-4051 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bodge can be contacted at 441-6850 or email@example.com. The department work identification number for the Pine Point Crossing Bridge is 018229.00.
Maine Department of Transportation officials say minimizing detours around the Pine Point Road bridge replacement in Scarborough will be critical, and work will have to be halted each time trains pass beneath the span.