VERONA (AP) – Traffic on the Waldo-Hancock Bridge was up this summer despite warnings that the 72-year-old span’s cables could not support heavy loads, according to state figures.

The Maine Department of Transportation shut the bridge to trucks after discovering the extent of its deterioration in July.

Since then, department officials have compared traffic figures taken from bridge monitors to estimated numbers from 2000, the most recent time bridge traffic was tracked, said spokeswoman Carol Morris.

The transportation department’s figures indicate that traffic declined in the weeks after vehicles over 12 tons were banned, but the numbers jumped sharply in mid-August and remained higher than the 2000 estimates through the end of September.

The 2000 numbers were adjusted to exclude truck traffic.

At its peak, the average daily traffic this summer exceeded the 2000 figures by more than 2,200 vehicles, or about 28 percent, the data show.

The increases were well above the average daily traffic increases in Kittery and Trenton, which ran between 3.6 percent and 8.8 percent during the summer.

Department officials have not analyzed the number and have no explanation for the increase, Morris said.

The figures did not make sense to local residents concerned that the bridge’s problems have discouraged motorists from using it. David Milan, the economic development director in Bucksport, said the numbers don’t seem to reflect what is happening on the road.

“My method is less scientific, but I can tell you it’s been an awful lot easier getting out onto Route 1 from the side streets than it has been in the past,” he said.

The Waldo-Hancock Bridge, which crosses the Penobscot River between Prospect and Verona, is expected to close when a replacement bridge opens in 2005.

AP-ES-10-03-03 1003EDT

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