MDOT receives public input about Barters Island bridge project

Posted:  Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 8:15am
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Dozens of Barters Island residents made their intentions loud and clear about the bridge renovation project scheduled for 2017. Nearly all the approximately 50 residents told Maine Department of Transportation representatives that they wanted the 78-year-old bridge to remain manually operated.

The MDOT held a June 30 information hearing in the Boothbay Fire Station’s second floor meeting room. MDOT senior project manager Leanne Timberlake, introduced consultant Tom Kendrick, a professional engineer (PE) of McFarland Johnson, Inc.

Kendrick answered most of the 18 questions asked.

According to the MDOT officials, the project is still in the early planning stages. The department still isn’t sure whether to repair or replace the bridge. The informational meeting was held to gauge public opinion about the project.

Kendrick provided a general overview of the project. The department plans to construct a temporary bridge to maintain access to the island, replacing the swing span on the center pier, update the traffic safety system, and install either a manual or powered swing span option.

Robin Jordan described herself as a new resident who loves the bridge’s manual operation. She asked for a show of hands on the community’s preference on the swing span: manual or automated.

“I like it the way it is,” Jordan said. “It is a historical feature which attracts tourists. It’s an amazing feature for this area. And I’m sure whether people have lived her forever, or in-between, they feel the same way.”

A show of hands revealed near unanimous support for a manual powered swing span. Kendrick indicated the MDOT wasn’t limited to selecting either a manual or powered swing span bridge.

“There is another option. We may select a hybrid where the swing span is operated manually, but everything else, like the gates, operate electronically,” Kendrick said.

The MDOT has requested $4.25 million to repair the bridge that connects Barters Island to Boothbay. Kendrick characterized the bridge as being “structurally deficient.” The bridge’s swing span is in poor condition. But the two approach spans were repaired in 1982 and remain in good condition.

“The truss is well past its design life and needs replacing,” Kendrick said. “The swing spans are only halfway through their lifespans. So we are looking for some good information about whether it’s best to replace or repair the bridge.”

Regardless of the MDOT’s decision, a temporary bridge will be built, according to Kendrick. The MDOT laid out a preliminary schedule for the project. In May, the MDOT began designing its preliminary plans.

The completed preliminary design is scheduled for February 2016. A preliminary public hearing is planned for March 2016. A final design is planned for April 2017. The MDOT plans advertising for construction in May 2017.

The MDOT plans on constructing the temporary bridge in fall 2017. Work on the permanent bridge will begin in the winter. Kendrick said the MDOT may use the same temporary bridge site used in the 1980s. He said the department is still reviewing potential locations for the temporary bridge.

Barters Island resident Kathleen Marty asked the first question. She was concerned about heavy trucks using the temporary bridge. Kendrick said the contractor would decide the temporary bridge’s capacity.

But, like most residents who attended, Marty’s main concern was keeping the tradition of a manually swing bridge alive. She has lived on Oak Hill Road for the past 11 years and has rarely experienced the 20-minute wait associated with the swing bridge’s activation.

“I came because I wanted more information about the project,” Marty said. “But I’m more concerned about the swing bridge. It has historical value, brings in tourists, and as you can see, almost all the hands went up to keep it.”

The MDOT plans on keeping the public updated on future plans. One resident requested that future meetings be held at the Barters Island Community Hall.