Woolwich anxious about bridge replacement as feds give $25M

Tue, 11/12/2019 - 8:45am

Woolwich officials have mixed feelings on the state’s plans to replace the Route 1 bridge north of the Taste of Maine Restaurant. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Nov. 6, Maine will get $25 million toward the estimated $30 million project.

“We’re glad the state was able to get the funding, but I’ve got concerns whether the new bridge construction will mean increased traffic on our secondary roads,” Selectman Jason Shaw told Wiscasset Newspaper. “The Maine (Department of Transportation) representative that met with us said they’d try to maintain two lanes of traffic on Route 1 throughout the construction. What worries me are Route 1 motorists using our back roads.”

Selectman Dale Chadbourne agreed. “It will mean more traffic on the Nequasset Road past our elementary school, on Route 127 and probably the George Wright and Old Stage roads.

“These roads will all take a beating from the increased traffic. I hope the state will help us when the time comes to repair and repave them,” he said.

Chadbourne thinks the best scenario would be for the state to construct the new bridge as close to the old one as possible. “I understand that the work needs to be done and it’s good that they’ve been awarded the funding,” added Chadbourne.

Selectman Allison Hepler said she’s pleased the state received the federal grant money it sought for the project. Hepler, too, has concerns about traffic movement. “We'll work with MDOT to make this go as smoothly as possible," she commented.

Selectman Allen Greene expects the construction will result in some delays, more so during the summer tourist season. Greene and wife Janice live on Old Stage Road, one of the routes local commuters will rely on to avoid traffic tie-ups due to the bridge construction.

“The alternative route takes motorists onto Route 127 on the opposite side of Nequasset Lake,” he said. Greene added, the state could consider doing the construction at night when traffic is lighter.

Selectmen’s Chairrman David King Sr. is pleased the state is getting nearly all the funding needed. “I’m sure it’s going to mean more traffic on our back roads and that’s a real concern to the townspeople. The state has told us they plan to keep traffic moving on Route 1 and that will help. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

The state built the Station 46 bridge in 1933 to carry motorists over the railroad and marshland abutting Pleasant Cove. Before that, traffic traveled over an earthen dike. The steel girder bridge was widened and reinforced in 1957 and again in 1977.

The state decided to replace the bridge after a recent safety inspection rated it “structurally deficient,” as time and the elements having taken a toll on its steel frame, decking and other components. Corrosion beneath the bridge was found to be fairly extensive; state officials determined it would cost less to replace the bridge than repair it. An average of 19,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day.

In September, MDOT Project Manager Devan Eaton told selectmen the design phase was just beginning. Construction was slated for 2022 and completion in 2023, he said. Eaton noted MDOT would be working closely with the forthcoming Kennebec River Estuary Restoration Project. MDOT also planned to address the tidal flooding at the nearby junction of George Wright Road and Route 1. The state hasn’t determined the height or length of the new bridge, or whether it would be made of steel or concrete.

Collins, chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, announced Maine will receive a total of $44.6 million to fund two transportation projects sought by MDOT and the town of Lubec. The projects, which will be funded through the federal BUILD program, will help replace the Station 46 bridge in Woolwich and make major improvements to Lubec’s harbor to protect fishermen and boats.

A Collins press release stated U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called Collins to notify her these projects Collins strongly advocated were approved. This year, the Department of Transportation received 666 eligible BUILD applications requesting more than $9.6 billion in funding. Maine’s projects were two of only 55 applications funded.

“Improving Maine’s infrastructure is one of my top priorities as chairman ... I am delighted to announce this $44.6 million investment for transportation projects that will benefit residents in Midcoast and Downeast Maine,” said Collins. “This funding will support the much needed replacement of the Station 46 Bridge, a critical link between Bath Iron Works and points north that is currently in poor condition. This project will enhance the efficiency of our transportation network while helping Mainers reach their homes and jobs more quickly. 

“We’d like to thank our Congressional representatives, including Senator Collins, for their ongoing commitment to funding transportation infrastructure improvements in Maine,” MDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in the release.  “This support from our federal partners continues to be a big part of how we fund our annual work plan. Replacing the Station 46 Bridge – which carries Route 1 in Woolwich – will preserve this vital commuter, tourism, and economic corridor in Midcoast Maine.”