Based on what we have heard from the experts over the last 2-3 years, it seems pretty clear that the footbridge in Boothbay Harbor needs to be replaced. It is deficient in terms of load carrying capacity, is not compliant with modern codes and is too susceptible to flooding with storm surges and extreme tides. We have seen water over the footbridge at least twice in the recent past. I completely understand that it is an iconic part of the town and we would all like it to continue to be here, but the reality is that if we want to ensure the safety of those who use it we cannot afford not to replace it. Furthermore, since it needs to be higher, I can’t see how that could be done without a total replacement.
The design proposed by the Baker Design Consultants is a very acceptable compromise, although I would prefer to prohibit bicycles on the footbridge. This would allow railings to be lower and the bridge a bit narrower than the proposed design that allows bicycles, hopefully providing some cost benefit. The deck and railings are still wood and eliminate the unsightly chain link fencing. The curved design will allow for more dock space, ensure less downtime for the bridge during construction and make access to the house better. With the technology available today we can utilize structural materials that provide a 75-year or better life span, while still maintaining the traditional look of wood, without excessive cost.
I urge the select board to move forward with this proposed replacement. We have discussed this issue at multiple meetings and public forums over the last few years. The longer we wait, the more costly it will become. The new bridge will still be a centerpiece in our community, but now it will be both a beautiful and a safe structure.