Engineers can't blame the road for collapsing

There’s no way around it: The collapse of Route 136 was a very costly screw-up that will affect businesses and residents for months to come.

What’s more, it was only luck that prevented workers or travelers from being killed.

So jeers to the Maine Department of Transportation for not taking full responsibility for the faulty plan that allowed this to happen.

“It’s a very, very tricky site,” MDOT project manager Jeff Tweedie said this week.

We’re sorry, but professional engineers are trained to do tricky tests and use tricky calculations to head off disasters like this.

This is a bend in a slow-moving river. It’s not like we’re rebuilding the Pacific Coast Highway in California with cliffs on one side and the pounding Pacific Ocean on the other. That’s a tricky site.

The MDOT plan for reconstructing this road was so far off base that it began collapsing even before construction was completed and when the river was at a very low stage.

In an effort to save the faulty design, MDOT began pounding slabs of steel into the riverbank. That effort failed in spectacular fashion when a crane and two workers rode a 40-foot wall of earth into the river.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted. One business along the route has already decided to close and several others are suffering. An elderly couple may lose their house or be forced to move it.

Meanwhile, thousands of travelers will be taking a bumpy 20-minute detour around the site or finding another, longer route.

Now, state engineers think a new design, one that turns the steep bank into a gradual slope, might solve the problem. This will require at least another $250,000.

If the state engineers find this site so tricky, perhaps a consulting engineering firm should be hired to review the new plan.

Jeers to Bates College student Paul Chiampa who allegedly began hitting the bottle only days after returning to campus and in apparent violation of bail conditions set last spring.

Chiampa, a chemistry major and pitcher on the Bates baseball team, was arrested during a large, drunken melee on campus in May, only days before school let out for the year.

He was charged with refusing to submit to arrest and failing to disperse after the fracas, which left a Lewiston police officer with a broken leg.

Ten other students were also arrested that night.

Police say Chiampa, 21, was arrested again shortly after midnight Sunday on Frye Street and charged with violating the conditions of his release.

At the very least, Chiampa should be suspended from sports until this allegation is cleared up.

And, finally, jeers to the Westbrook Fire and Rescue Department, which will cost the city and its insurer $850,000 to settle two long-running harassment claims.

Two female members of the department will split the money under an agreement reached with city officials.

Mayor Colleen Hilton did not reappoint Chief Daniel Brock when she took office in January, and she laid off Deputy Fire Chief Thaddeus Soltys in a cost-cutting measure.

Now the department is being run by two temporary consultants with firefighting experience and sexual harassment prevention training — again costing the town money.

The moral of this story is that no workplace can afford to ignore harassment.

What do you think of this story?

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 's picture

Do it right the first time

I agree this project was a waste of money and time. MDOT should have been re-routing the road out through the back side of the fields adjacent to this problem area. Commuters could have continued to use the temporary section that had the Jersey barriers while the new road was being constructed away from the river. There would have been no traffic disruption for commuters and MDOT wouldn't of have had to deal with traffic while they were constructing the new road. They could have taken all spring, summer, and fall to complete it at their leisure and the new road would be opening soon. Businesses could have stayed open, commuters would be happy, construction workers would have been safe with no traffic, and the elderly couple could be looking at finishing out their years with quiet riverfront property after the new road opened.

 's picture

at least it wasn't a

at least it wasn't a bridge....oh yeah I forgot about the new auburn dropping a few feet

 's picture

New Auburn bridge

New Auburn bridge

 's picture

is wondering....

why the SJ editorial board isn't working with the MDOT on rt 136 to solve the problem??????....

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