Yarmouth public puts pedestrian safety first in Maine DOT meeting

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YARMOUTH — Officials heard overwhelming support for more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly bridges at a Maine Department of Transportation public meeting to discuss improvements to the Bayview Street bridge and the U.S. Route 1 bridge over Interstate 295.

Plans, cost, and a schedule have not been set yet, but the hope is to start construction of both bridges between 2020 and 2021. 

MDOT Project Manager Joel Kittredge said the meeting on Monday, Feb. 5, was a preliminary step in the process, with a goal to receive and consider input from the public before presenting a plan at a formal public meeting. 

The Route 1 bridge, located just before exit 15 off Interstate 295 north, is 60 years old. The most recent work on it was in 2013, when its top layer of pavement was replaced. 

Steve Hodgden, an engineer with Hoyle, Tanner Associates, said the current project scope is to replace the deck of the bridge, which is missing concrete and shows exposed reinforcing steel.

The goal is to widen the deck by 2 feet to allow shoulders for bicycle and pedestrian travel. Throughout construction, two of the three existing lanes of traffic – one southbound and two northbound – would remain open. Construction would take place in three stages, maintaining one lane of northbound and one lane of southbound travel at all times.

The scope of the Bayview Street bridge work, which lies further north on Route 1, just before exit 17, would also be to replace and widen the deck. Widening the deck would allow for the replacement of the two, 2-foot sidewalks on each side of the bridge with one, 5-foot sidewalk on the western side. 

Residents of Bayview Street and surrounding neighborhoods asked that MDOT consider installing barriers between the bicyclist and pedestrian lane and the roadway, rather than a raised sidewalk, which is how they stand now. 

Some also asked for fencing, higher than the minimum regulatory height of 42 inches, to be installed on both sides of the bridge to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.

Kittredge said that would be considered in plans, but in order to have fencing installed before construction begins – likely two to three years from now – he and the town would have to have discussions with a bridge maintenance crew.

The town is considering forming a committee of residents to discuss what they’d like to see in future plans for each bridge. The Route 1 bridge committee would likely consist of residents of Yarmouth and Freeport, as the bridge connects the two towns. 

Noting that plans are far from being solidified, Kittredge encouraged residents to call or email him with any questions, concerns or suggestions they might have regarding the projects. 

The preliminary design process is expected to take place from now until September, with an informational meeting in late spring 2018 and a formal public meeting in July or August. 

“Preliminary designs haven’t even really begun yet,” Kittredge said. “We’re just scratching the surface here.” 

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