Yarmouth panel submits Route 1 bridge proposals

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YARMOUTH — The Route 1 Bridge Advisory Committee has asked the Town Council to recommend its suggestions for a new bridge to the Maine Department of Transportation.

The committee last week submitted a report to councilors with its requests for how the new U.S. Route 1 bridge over Main Street should be designed. Councilors will vote on whether to send the report to MDOT on April 16.

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. They formed the committee and tasked the members with writing guidelines for how the bridge should be renovated.

“It’s not a promise that MDOT will design everything that we ask for or come up with exactly what we envision as a great bridge, but I think there is a very sincere commitment demonstrated by MDOT to try really hard and to work with the locals,” Town Manager Nat Tupper said at the April 2 Town Council workshop.

In its report to the council, the committee listed six things desired in a new bridge.

Safety was mentioned frequently, with the panel asking for “safe, protected pedestrian and cyclist access” on and under the bridge, as well as at the exit ramps. The committee also asked for better connections from Route 1 to Main Street for pedestrians and cyclists.

The committee also wants traffic on the bridge and at the exit ramps to be calmed. The ability to hang banners over Main Street is also listed, because it is currently unsafe to do so on the bridge.

Maintaining the “Main Street experience” is also important to the committee. It asked that the structure of the new bridge blend in with Main Street and not “stand out or detract from” the current environment.

The committee also wants the space under the bridge to be open and usable, so it can “become an asset to the community.”

Tupper said the committee worked hard to compose a request that would please Yarmouth residents.

“There’s been this heartfelt, vigorous conversation to figure out what are our values that we want (MDOT) to design to,” he said.

According to the committee, MDOT’s final design won’t be ready until summer 2016. Construction is expected to begin that fall or winter, with the bridge completed by fall 2017.

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

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.