RUMFORD — Business owners, town and paper mill officials provided information Wednesday night to state transportation engineers about the planned rehabilitation of Upper Canal Bridge.

The 260-foot-long span carries Route 108 traffic over Mill Canal, through which the Androscoggin River flows beside the downtown area. It is a three-span bridge with 80-foot-long end sections and a 100-foot long center section.

It was built in 1954, making it a 60-year-old bridge that didn’t meet the state’s bridge design life of 75 years, Rich Myers, the project engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, said.

The bridge’s foundation — two end abutments and two concrete piers in the middle of the canal — and its steel I-beam superstructure are in satisfactory condition, but the deck slab that traffic uses is in poor shape, he said.

Cores taken of the deck in 2012 revealed that the concrete was starting to disintegrate and joints at the end of the bridge are falling apart. Myers said that in November 2013, he and MDOT engineers in a boat under the bridge also found disintegrating concrete and exposed reinforcing steel.

Myers said the average annual daily traffic volume using the bridge in 2013 was 8,160 vehicles, of which 10 percent were commercial trucks. Traffic is projected to increase to 9,790 vehicles in 20 years.

Traffic options considered during construction are:

* Installing a temporary bridge to handle traffic.

* Closing the road completely at the bridge and detouring all traffic —  including commercial trucks — onto Route 2.

* Closing the road at the bridge, but building a temporary road just east of the bridge down past the old Agway building and placing the traffic onto the Hartford Street bridge, and run the traffic through the downtown on Congress Street.

* Maintaining one lane of alternating traffic on the bridge while the other side is under construction.

* Maintaining one lane of west-bound traffic on the bridge while the other side is being worked, and detour east-bound traffic onto Route 2.

“Right now, preliminarily, we’re thinking of closing the bridge, but creating a little temporary road and detouring traffic onto the Hartford Street Bridge,” Myers said.

But because commercial truck drivers may have a difficult time doing that, they’re considering detouring trucks onto Route 2.

The MDOT is also considering eliminating one or both sidewalks on Upper Canal Bridge.

Stephen Bodge, MDOT’s Bridge Program project manager, said the total project, to be built in 2016, is estimated to cost $2.18 million in a 70-30 funding split between federal and state.

When asked why not detour traffic onto Railroad Street instead of Hartford Street, Myers said NewPage Corp. officials believe the traffic would disrupt their truck deliveries, which number about 35 a day.

Selectman Jolene Lovejoy said she didn’t want tractor-trailer trucks detoured through the downtown.

“That’s a nightmare,” she said. “I mean these trucks are huge. Congress Street’s a one-way street.”

“That’s why Rich said we’re going to use Route 2 for trucks, keep them on the outskirts,” Bodge said.

Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said he didn’t think the options were viable due to truck deliveries to downtown businesses and truck drivers heading to the paper mill to pick up paper or drop off commodities that take wrong routes to get there.

“Every now and then we have a lot of bottlenecks on the island,” Buccina said. “If we’re going to be directing traffic to the island, we’re going to have a lot of issues downtown….It’s going to be a real mess.”

Myers said that if MDOT can completely close the bridge to traffic, the project would take four months to complete. However, if the work is done in stages while one side of the bridge is replaced, it would take 8 months spread across two years, he said.

Rumford and Mexico Town Manager John Madigan suggested widening Canal Street and using it as a detour, so that when the project is completed, Rumford could have more parking space.

Randall Smith, owner of Ink Plaza on Congress Street, said he’d welcome detoured traffic on Congress Street.

Bodge asked if MDOT squeezed the contractor and reduced the project to two to three months with the road closed and traffic detoured, would it be more palatable. Buccina and Lovejoy said it would.

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