Topsham selectmen to consider Riverwalk cost savings plan

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TOPSHAM — Having town crews build a riverside walking trail instead of putting the construction out to bid may save the Androscoggin Riverwalk project money, but the Maine Department of Transportation and federal authorities must first approve the plan.

The project has cost more than anticipated and town officials have been looking into ways to save money on the work yet to be completed.

The Board of Selectmen were scheduled to hear a report from Planning Director Rich Roedner about the proposal at its Thursday, Jan. 19, meeting.

The Androscoggin Riverwalk is to run from the Androscoggin Pedestrian Swinging Bridge downstream to Summer Street. It then will connect to the Summer Street sidewalk and proceed across the Androscoggin River and into Brunswick via the Frank J. Wood Bridge, also known as the “Green Bridge.”

A future section in Brunswick has been planned to link the two bridges.

DOT is providing 80 percent of the total $120,000 anticipated cost of the town’s portion of the project. The Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk advisory committee raised the 20 percent local match of $24,000 for Topsham’s part of the project.

But it turns out that construction could cost closer to $140,000, which has caused the town to work with its engineers and DOT to find savings, Roedner said.

“Another option is to have the town crews build this section of trail as well,” he wrote in a Dec. 28, 2011, memo to the Board of Selectmen.

The recently completed Bridge to Bridge Trail, which runs from the Swinging Bridge upstream to the Black Bridge, was built by Topsham Public Works as an in-kind match.

“Again, it would require no cash from the town, and all costs would be reimbursed by either the DOT or the Androscoggin Riverwalk Committee,” Roedner said.

The town has approached DOT about that idea, he continued, and has “been advised that since this is federal money, making it a public works project rather than a public bid project is not the preferred option, but that we can certainly submit a request and approach the DOT and federal authorities for clearance.”

Roedner said the Board of Selectmen was comfortable with its town crews working on the Bridge to Bridge Trail, and that “I just need to get them to say whether they want us to pursue building the Riverwalk.”

The Bridge to Bridge Trail had state funding, whereas the Riverwalk has federal money coming through the state, Roedner said.

Using town crews for the Bridge to Bridge project, “we came in way under the budget that had been established for that project,” he said.

He noted that an alternative idea would be to go out to bid and hope bids come in low enough to construct the current design, but risk needing to downscale the trail for it to be affordable.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.