FALMOUTH — The Maine Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it is no longer considering closing the Martin Point bridge during reconstruction scheduled to begin in 2012.
“We’ve done enough at this point to realize it would be very problematic to close it,” MDOT Project Manager Nate Benoit said.
MDOT is still evaluating three other options for diverting traffic during the proposed construction, including building a parallel bridge to replace the current span, building a temporary two-lane bridge while the current one is replaced, or maintaining traffic across the bridge during construction, which would likely cause periodic closures.
“We just want to put people’s minds at ease. We’re not going to shut the bridge down for an extended period of time,” Benoit said.
The bridge spans Casco Bay near the mouth of the Presumpscot River, carrying Route 1 traffic between Falmouth and Portland’s East Deering neighborhood.
Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore expressed relief at the announcement.
“We’re grateful to DOT for making the decision early in the process,” Poore said. “It will allow us to make plans for other services.”
Poore said accommodations for fishermen and pedestrians who use the bridge need to be considered, as well boaters who need to be able to travel under the bridge. He said the town would also need to discuss the approach location, if MDOT decides to move the bridge.
The three proposed options have not yet been individually priced, but the estimated total cost of the project is $30 million.
An Oct. 28, 2008, inspection revealed the superstructure of the current bridge, which includes the steel beams and concrete decks, rated a 4 out of 9. A rating of 3 would have required the bridge to be posted with weight limits. Salt water has caused rusting in the joints of the bridge, and some of the wood pilings have rotted or splintered.
“It is currently safe for its intended use,” Benoit said, adding that the bridge was inspected again within the past year and had not deteriorated to a point that would make it unacceptable beyond the current use.
MDOT held a public meeting in February to hear comments from the community about the bridge. It was at that meeting that MDOT introduced the possibility of closing the bridge during the entire construction project. Benoit said that option has now been eliminated.
MDOT will hold another public meeting on the project, although it has not yet been scheduled. Benoit estimated it would be held in June or July, once more of the engineering process has been completed.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or email@example.com