Yarmouth council appoints panel for Route 1 bridge design

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council on has officially decided to keep the Route 1 bridge over Main Street, instead of creating an at-grade intersection.

In addition to unanimously deciding to keep the bridge, councilors Dec. 18 also approved a committee to gather information about different options for a new bridge.

The Maine Department of Transportation asked the town to consider what course of action to take for the aging bridge. Yarmouth could either renovate the structure as a two-lane bridge, or to remove it and bring Route 1 down to Main Street, creating an intersection.

MDOT needed to have Yarmouth’s final decision by June 2015, but councilors made the decision last week so the committee could have time to gather information; councilors want the panel to submit a report by March 31.

The committee has five members, including representatives from the Village Improvement Society, the Planning Board, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, and the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.

Paul Becker of Becker Structural Engineers is the fifth member. Councilor Andy Kittredge is the Town Council liaison and town engineer Steve Johnson is the town liaison. 

At their meeting, councilors said the committee has already started looking into different options for bridge design, and will bring the best option back to the council.

Town Manager Nat Tupper on Dec. 8 presented councilors with a list of things to consider when asking MDOT for a new bridge. The list included lighting, guard rails, building materials, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and the width of the bridge. It also included questions about parking under the bridge, creating a bus stop under it, and putting up public art.

Up until the meeting on Dec. 18, Councilor Tamson Bickford-Hamrock said she was unsure whether she wanted to keep the bridge or not. She said she changed her mind after seeing how many residents wanted to keep the bridge. Bickford-Hamrock said she couldn’t ignore that over 100 people attended a recent Town Council meeting, and most of them expressed a strong desire to keep the bridge.

“What bubbled up to me was the energy and excitement in that room,” Bickford-Hamrock said. “I think we have a real opportunity here to harness that energy.”

All of the other councilors have been open about wanting to keep the bridge, and Bickford-Hamrock said she decided to join them.

“Let’s all row the boat in the same direction,” she said. “Let’s all be a united force to make our community thrive.”

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

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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.