PORTLAND — A temporary bridge will be built to preserve pedestrian and bicycle access between Martin’s Point and Washington Avenue when the Veranda Street bridge is closed in June.
Jim Wentworth, project manager of the Maine Department of Transportation, said the bridge will be closed from June 24 until a new bridge is built. The $2 million project could be complete by the end of September, Wentworth said.
The 1920s-era bridge will be replaced by a 30-foot single-span concrete bridge with sidewalks and bike lanes. The current structure has deteriorated over the years to the point where the DOT last year posted a 15-ton weight limit and added temporary supports.
Meanwhile, large trucks and city vehicles like plow trucks, garbage trucks and buses have had to use alternate routes.
The complete closure of the bridge has been a major concern for East Deering residents because Veranda Street is one of only two streets that provide access to the rest of Portland. While vehicles can simply use Interstate 295 to get to Washington Avenue, pedestrians and bicyclists do not have that option.
Many residents feared they would be landlocked on Martin’s Point, since most of the neighborhood streets are dead ends and the Veranda Street Bridge is the safest way to cross the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad tracks.
Wentworth said Freeport-based CPM Constructors will build a pedestrian bridge, rather than provide a shuttle service for pedestrians – a decision that is expected to settle the nerves of concerned residents.
“That was a very hot issue during the whole development of the project,” Wentworth said of the pedestrian access. “(The pedestrian bridge) will be one of the first things they do.”
Gas and telephone utilities will also be relocated during the initial stages of construction, he said. The pedestrian bridge will be removed once the bridge reopens.
Meanwhile, the intersection of the I-295 Exit 9 and Route 1 will be reconfigured to preserve northbound vehicle access to homes from Olympia to Kensington streets.
The small section of road that connects northbound traffic on Route 1 to the I-295 off-ramp will be closed at Olympia Street. Traffic will be rerouted to the southbound lane of Route 1, which will become a two-way street.
Fliers about the project and the detour will be distributed to area businesses and residents, Wentworth said.
The East Deering Neighborhood Association will have a meeting on May 20 to discuss the traffic detour and other elements of the project.
EDNA Vice President Sandy Donahue declined to discuss the project, but encouraged residents to attend the meeting to receive information and have their questions answered. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Club, 17 Wordsworth St.
A Maine Department of Transportation map of how traffic patterns will change because of reconstruction of the Veranda Street bridge in Portland. (Courtesy MDOT)