Byron given two options for Coos bridge

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BYRON — A state official told selectmen Tuesday night that the state would rebuild the Byron Village Road bridge for continued use by traffic, or repair it for use by pedestrians, but the town would have to take over maintenance in either case.

If residents refuse to, the state will likely abandon it or close it off, Michael White of the Maine Department of Transportation said.

According to the traffic count taken last summer, an average of 210 vehicles a day cross the span over the Swift River just beyond the Coos Canyon rest area.

Byron Village Road is off Route 17.

White said the bridge is a low priority for the state because of the low traffic volume and its small size. State officials are looking to turn responsibility over to the town after the state repairs the decking and substructure to fair condition, he said.

“Our commissioner is taking a new approach,” White said, by removing bridges with low traffic volume.

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The bridge was built in 1935; got new decking in 1953, was rehabilitated in the mid-1980s and had the weight limit lowered from 10 tons to five tons in 2016, he said.

White presented two options:

• Replacing the timber decking, making minor repairs to the abutments, painting and paving, and making it a pedestrian and trail bridge because the abutments cannot safely support the weight of cars and trucks; or

• Building a new superstructure and keeping the five-ton limit.

Selectmen and residents were concerned about the cost of maintaining the bridge and the affect on businesses and residents dependent on the bridge for accessibility.

White said if the town refuses to take over the bridge, the state will likely abandon it or close it off.

Most residents said they wanted to be able to drive across the bridge and keep the five-ton weight limit.

White said he would contact the board to schedule a public hearing to discuss design options.

In other business, a special town meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 24 at the schoolhouse next to the Town Office to decide on how to pay for an audit of town finances.

Selectmen authorized an audit of town finances for the years 2014 to 2017 and received the first invoice from RHR Smith & Co., the auditing company, totaling $12,000.

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Byron Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Linda Joyal and board member James Ramey review meeting minutes Tuesday night at the Town Office. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

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