Yarmouth businesses wary of Route 1 bridge-related detours

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YARMOUTH — Four options for a renovated bridge over Main Street were presented on Tuesday, along with construction schedules and options for a southbound acceleration lane.

The Route 1 Bridge Advisory Committee on Aug. 4 held a meeting with VHB, a South Portland-based structural engineering company, the Maine Department of Transportation, and local business owners to discuss different ways to renovate the bridge over Main Street.

The group also addressed concerns about construction time-lines and the impact of traffic detours on local businesses.

Last fall, MDOT asked Yarmouth to consider what course of action to take for the aging bridge. The town had the choice of renovating the structure as a two-lane bridge, or removing it to create an intersection with Main Street. In December, councilors voted to keep the bridge.

VHB’s Tim Bryant, the project manager, on Tuesday said two of the options are for three-span bridges, which would be arched and look similar to the current bridge. The first option would reuse the existing spans and the second would use box beams.

These options would have a construction schedule of August 2017 to May 2018, with Route 1 being closed for 60- 75 days between August and October. The construction would start in August and end in December, but the final paving would be done the following May.

The third and fourth options are single-span bridges, which would be straight across, rather than arched, and offer limited views of Main Street. One option would be a box-beam bridge, and the other option would be to use steel girders.

The total construction time for these options would be August-October in 2017, with Route 1 being closed for about 45 days in August and September.

All four of the options would also have the possibility of closing Main Street for a week, but this could be avoided by making a short detour using School and York streets.

Many of the business owners at the meeting said they want more information about the possibility of partial bridge closure during construction.

Bryant said it would take longer to finish renovations if one lane of the bridge was left open for vehicle use while the bridge is worked on, but it could be done. Business owners said they may prefer that because it wouldn’t prevent potential customers from reaching their establishments.

Matt Chappell of Gather, at 189 Main St., and John Kyle of Pat’s Pizza, at 791 Route 1, said if the bridge is closed from August-December it would hurt business. Kyle said August is an especially busy time for his restaurant.

Sally Oldham, chairwoman of the advisory committee, said the construction dates were chosen to avoid conflict with the annual Clam Festival in the middle of July. She said it could be possible to do construction from March to July, but that would be cutting it close.

Bryant also discussed the advisory committee’s decision to remove the southbound acceleration lane coming from School Street.

The first option for doing this would be to put traffic lights at the top of School Street and just before the bridge heading southbound. This would stop through traffic and allow drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians a chance to safely get onto the bridge.

Bryant said this would have “a pretty minimal change to traffic flow.”

The second option would be to create a T intersection by eliminating the curved entrance onto Route 1. Again, there would be traffic lights on School Street and Route 1, but Bryant said this option isn’t as efficient.

“It’s not as free flowing as the existing conditions,” he said.

Bryant said the main reasons for narrowing the bridge is to increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, and to save money. He said making a two-lane bridge is also consistent with the town’s improvement project and vision for Route 1, which is to make it a slower road with more businesses and a Main Street feel.

The advisory committee’s next step is to present a preliminary report to the town and the public by the end of September.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements

Travis Cook, left, Mackenzie Denkowicz, and project manager Tim Bryant present options for renovating the Route 1 bridge over Main Street in Yarmouth on Tuesday. One option, on the screen, is to create a single-span bridge with steel girders.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.