CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Work has begun on installing two temporary bridges to bypass washed out sections of Route 27, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Latti said Wednesday.
Reed & Reed, Inc., a Woolwich-based general contracting firm with expertise in bridge building, began work at the sites Tuesday. The temporary bridges are expected to open Tuesday, Sept. 6, he said.
The department expects permanent bridges will be completed by Nov. 18, subject to price negotiations.
The destruction of the bridges from Tropical Storm Irene last weekend left the Sugarloaf ski and golf resort landlocked and about 100 people stranded after the storm.
As of Wednesday, temporary routes from the south on private roads allowed workers and guests to access the resort. From the north employees were using a temporary wooden footbridge to get to work. That is being replaced by the state with a temporary aluminum footbridge expected to open Thursday, Latti said.
Latti said federal funds for the permanent bridges are likely to come from the Federal Highway Administration and not the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said the bridges qualified for federal highway funds because Route 27 is classified as a major connector highway by the federal government.
Latti said the bridges, which were from two different construction eras, collapsed moments apart.
The bridge to the north of Sugarloaf over the South Branch of Carrabassett River was built in the late 1950s, while the one to the south of the resort over Bracket Brook was built in 1999. Latti said the bridges failed, largely due to the excessive amount of rainwater that flooded the tributaries.
"One of these two bridges was built to modern standards and they both went down within a few minutes of each other," Latti said.
An estimated 8.5 inches of rain fell on the region.
While the bridge to the north was scheduled to be repaired and updated, it was the weather and not design flaw that caused it to wash out.
"This was a 100-year event," Latti said.
He said concerns that another 139 state bridges of similar age and design were susceptible to collapse were unfounded.
"Those bridges are safe, they are monitored and inspected regularly," Latti said. "We had other bridges in that area that are susceptible to erosion and of similar design and age and they are fine."
“Maine DOT and Reed and Reed are focusing their efforts on working through the holiday in order to restore traffic as quickly as possible,” MDOT’s Joyce Taylor, who is overseeing the reconstruction process, said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday.
MDOT has worked with the Gov. Paul LePage's office, Federal Highway Administration officials, local and state officials, and area businesses in order to restore traffic as soon as possible on Route 27, the release stated.
“Getting the Route 27 corridor back in action is essential to Maine’s economic relationship with Canada, as well as the Western Maine tourism industry and the way of life for area residents,” LePage said in a statement. “My administration will be doing everything we can to get this important road back open safely and cost-effectively.”
MDOT selected Reed & Reed Tuesday after interviews with five construction companies, the release stated.
"Reed & Reed was selected due to their expertise, its commitment to install temporary bridges quickly and safely, and their specific approach to this project," the release stated.
Due to the emergency nature of the situation, LePage authorized MDOT to utilize an accelerated contracting method, according to the release.
In addition to installing the two temporary bridges, Reed & Reed will assist the in the design of the two permanent bridges.