RILEY TOWNSHIP – The Oxford County commissioners have entered an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation to overhaul a degrading set of county-owned bridges near the Sunday River Ski Resort.

The board voted 2-1 to partner with the DOT to fix the Twin Bridges, also known as the Bull Branch Bridges, on Coburn Field Road in Riley Township. Under the agreement, the DOT will provide up to $450,000, or $225,000 for each of the two 41-foot-long spans, to rehabilitate the bridges.

In return, Oxford County must provide up to $72,516, or $36,258 per bridge, toward the project.

Several people spoke in favor of preserving the bridges at a hearing last August after commissioners put out a public notice that they were considering closing down the deteriorating spans, which have washed out in heavy rains in the past.

John Mitchell, executive director of the Mahoosuc Land Trust, said at the hearing that the bridges access a rural area but are frequently used by visitors to access popular recreational sites. These include hiking trails and the Frenchman’s Hole swimming area.

Representatives for Sunday River and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land also testified at the hearing that they use the bridges to access timber harvesting sites. The bureau owns 13,869 acres in the area, while the resort owns 5,364 acres.

According to a 2008 DOT report, the bridges’ superstructure and decking are in fair condition, but the substructure is in serious condition on one bridge and critical condition on the other. Vehicles crossing the bridges are currently limited to three tons.

The agreement stipulates that the DOT will provide the structural steel necessary for the project, while the county will provide the timber decking, nailing strips, and timber for a back wall. The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands has offered to contribute $15,000 to the project, and Sunday River has offered to contribute $2,000.

The agreement also states that the DOT may postpone or end the project upon 30 days written notice to the county, and that the county will be responsible for routine maintenance of the bridges.

Caldwell Jackson, who opposed approving the agreement, said he did not believe the bridges were used enough to merit the investment into their repair.

“There’s no homes or anything else back there that they’re going to,” he said Friday.

Jackson said he felt the money could be better used for other projects in the unorganized territories in Oxford County, such as paving roads.

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