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Work to begin on new Portland-Falmouth bridge

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Work to begin on new Portland-Falmouth bridge

PORTLAND — Construction of a new Martin's Point bridge is about to begin.

CPM Constructors has set up a staging area for work on the bridge, which connects Veranda Street with Route 1 in Falmouth. Although a concrete time line for the project is not expected until later this month, Carol Morris, spokeswoman for the Freeport-based contractor, said work will be underway soon.

“They are really just mobilizing right now and starting to have regular construction meetings,” Morris said. “Typically (the time line) is something we only put out a little bit at a time because construction tends to be very flexible.”

Plans for the $23 million replacement were announced in early July. The winning bid for the project from CPM and Massachusetts-based engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, came in $7 million less than estimated costs.

Proposals for a bridge connecting Portland and Falmouth date back to 1807, but the original bridge over the mouth of the Presumpscot River was not built until 1828. It operated as a toll bridge until it was destroyed by ice in 1861. It was reconstructed in 1868, after the Civil War, with wooden piles that are still a favorite perch for sea birds.

The original bridge was rehabilitated in 1933 to accommodate three lanes of traffic after trolley service was suspended in the early 1930s.

The existing bridge was completed in 1943, and underwent its last major rehabilitation in 1991. That work included a new concrete deck, the addition of 6-foot sidewalks and reducing the roadway from four lanes to two with the addition of a wide shoulder.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation, in 2010 the bridge underwent a review and scored only a 34.8 out of 100 in a rating of sufficiency. The review found that there was significant deterioration of metal beams, the superstructure (beams and deck) and substructure (abutment and piers). A sufficiency rating of less than 40 requires replacement.

Discussions over the future of the bridge and what it should look like have continued since the report was released early in 2010.

The new design will be 112 feet shorter than the current 1,400-foot bridge and will have two traffic lanes, a pedestrian lane on the western side, a multi-use path on the right side and bump-outs with space for fishing.

Morris said it is important that drivers know the existing bridge will remain open during construction of the new bridge.

“The new bridge will be built on the east side of the old bridge," she said. "There will be plenty of opportunity to watch it being built."

Construction is expected to be completed early in 2014, if everything goes according to plan, Morris said.

Demolition of the existing bridge will begin after the new bridge opens.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.