Many advocate moving Martin Memorial Bridge upstream

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RUMFORD — Engineers involved in the likely replacement of the 55-year-old Martin Memorial Bridge heard requests to keep it in the village, move it upstream or downstream when a public information forum was held Tuesday night in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.

“Property is for sale on both sides of the river,” said Glen Thurston, a farmer operating in Rumford Point who suggested that a new bridge be built about 60 feet upstream from the current one.

Others suggested moving it about a half-mile downstream, but Sandra Theriault said that such a move would present problems to several residents in and around the downstream site and would have an effect on farmland in the area.

Ben Byam, a resident of Rumford Point whose house is directly across from the bridge, said the corner is a place of many near-accidents.

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“Either downstream or upstream would be better,” he said.

Byam, along with Dan Stearns, a member of the Polar Bear Snowmobile Club, asked that wherever the new bridge is built, a lane similar to the one on the recently built Gilbertville Bridge in Canton be constructed so snowmobiles can more safely cross the Androscoggin River.

The public informational session was held by the Maine Department of Transportation. Project engineer Leanne Timberlake said the department has funding to study where a new bridge would be sited and to complete the engineering plan. Funding for the construction of the bridge would likely not be available until the 2012-13 construction season.

Depending on where the new bridge is built, the estimated cost ranges from about $11.5 million to $13.4 million. Rehabilitation costs would be about $11.3 million and would not provide a wider or taller bridge and would not address the eroded pilings issue, engineer Pamela Hetherly said.

The three-span, 600-foot-long bridge crosses the river virtually in the middle of the village.

Hetherly, of SEA Consultants Inc. in Augusta, said the bridge is in fairly good condition, but the load capacity is substandard and the piles are being eroded. The bridge is also narrow, at 24 feet wide, and has a steel “cap” that is sometimes hit by the larger and higher trucks that use it.

A preliminary meeting on the replacement or rehabilitation of the bridge was held in December. From there, MDOT and SEA Consultants engineers devised three possible sites for a new bridge.

Hetherly said factors to be considered include the two historic districts the current bridge abuts and environmental impacts.

Timberlake said the comments made by some of the 30 or so residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting would be studied, then another meeting would be called with a more defined plan for a replacement bridge.

If the project goes ahead, it will take 2 to 2½ years to build it, Timberlake said.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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