RUMFORD — Efforts to replace the 57-year-old Martin Memorial Bridge got a boost Tuesday when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced the U.S. Department of Transportation will award a $5.2 million grant to the state of Maine.
Collins, the senior Republican on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called her Tuesday to inform her of the grant award and to acknowledge her advocacy for the funding, according to a press release issued by her office.
The grant will be facilitated by the Maine Department of Transportation, Ted Talbot, MDOT spokesman, said early Tuesday afternoon.
The bridge is on Route 232, just south of U.S. Route 2 over the Androscoggin River in Rumford.
Martin Memorial Bridge is a deteriorating 600-foot-long, three-span, steel-trussed bridge built 57 years ago. It is 24 feet wide, curb to curb.
The total cost of the project is $9.3 million, Talbot said. The state will pay a 20 percent match to the federal government's 80 percent contribution. However, the MDOT will have to fund the project, and once it's completed, submit for reimbursement of the federal share.
The bridge replacement project is scheduled for 2014. Talbot said the old bridge will remain up until the new steel girder span is ready.
Collins was in Rumford on May 3 to tour the bridge with state, town and other local officials.
Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Tuesday that he was elated to learn about the grant award.
"We're very happy with the news and I imagine the people who live there are, too," Puiia said.
He said that previously, when Rumford selectmen learned that the MDOT was applying for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, the board sent letters of support on behalf of MDOT to Collins and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine.
"We were very pleased that the senator was able to come up here and view the bridge, but Rep. Michaud also lobbied on our behalf," Puiia said.
"We're very grateful, you know, because the bridge is way past due for replacement. I think we're very fortunate we're getting a new bridge, albeit in a new location."
The Federal Highway Administration has classified the deteriorating bridge as "structurally deficient," and Maine state officials had identified it as their top priority for replacement.
"The Martin Memorial Bridge is an important crossing for residents and businesses in the River Valley area and clearly needs to be replaced," Collins said in a prepared statement.
"Employers in the area, like NewPage, have told me that this bridge is critical to efficient and cost-effective transportation. Nearly one-third of NewPage's pulpwood and chips are sourced from south of the Androscoggin River, and the loss of this bridge would increase trucking distances and costs."
“The Martin Memorial Bridge is an important contributor to Rumford’s economy, and this $5 million grant will allow the bridge’s necessary replacement to proceed,” Rep. Michaud, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Tuesday afternoon by email.
“Investments in our infrastructure — like this grant — create jobs in Maine and make our businesses more competitive, and they are critical for our state’s long-term economic development.”
State engineers want to move the span 600 feet upriver and tie it in where three dilapidated buildings now stand.
The channel is narrower there, so it means building a shorter, less costly span and siting it for greater sight distance on Route 2 than what's currently available.
"It's been pretty much scoped out where the new bridge is going," Talbot said.
The MDOT held a hearing on the new location in April in Rumford and took comments. Puiia said MDOT officials are still working out safety issues identified at that meeting.
In related news, Talbot said Route 232 is scheduled to be rehabilitated next year. The $1.4 million project will start at Route 26 and proceed northerly for 6.71 miles.