MEXICO — There is much concern about what the future will bring with the eventual replacement of the bridge over the Androscoggin River between Mexico and Peru.

Approximately 40 people gathered in the Calvin Lyons Meeting Room on March 3 to share those concerns in an hourlong session with members of the Maine Department of Transportation.

Tom Kendrick, director of bridge engineering from McFarland Johnson, said the 1930 bridge “is not in the best shape. It’s structurally deficient, with a very narrow roadway.”

Some 6,400 vehicles a day on average cross the nearly 600-foot-long bridge, with about 9 percent of that being truck traffic.

Wayne Frankhauser of the MDOT Bridge Program said, “All of these truss bridges were built around the same time. Back then, vehicles were much lighter than they are now. Over time, the bridges start to show signs of rust and corrosion. Long story short, the bridge has reached the end of its useful life.”

While MDOT received funding for preliminary steps to replace or repair the bridge, Project Manager Leanne Timberlake noted this project is not funded for construction.

Much concern was also expressed that the bridge was abruptly posted at a limit of 25 tons.

MDOT said federal bridge structure regulations changed as a result of the 2007 bridge collapse in Minnesota, admitting that the analysis of capacity came less than expected for this bridge.

MDOT said the bridge, designed when the loads were a lot less, is termed “fracture critical. If one beams fails, there’s no other beams to carry the weight.”

Alan Orcutt, Irving Forest Products mill manager, said having that bridge posted “is having a significant impact on our business” because some of the logging trucks have to drive extra miles when they can’t use the bridge.

He asked that the time frame for the new construction be moved up.

Timberlake said the earliest that construction could happen would be 2016 or 2017. The new bridge would be a modern design and likely would be made of steel.

When construction does take place, concern was expressed about what the traffic flow would be to businesses in the area, especially with what Dixfield contended with during the construction on the Webb River Bridge.

MDOT officials said that while the Route 2 bridge involved working in a tight area, the Peru bridge project would be more open.

Mexico Town Manager John Madigan said the MDOT would construct the new bridge beside the old one, which would also help with the traffic flow.

A resident said she was sitting in her car on the bridge once as trucks drove past and, “You bounce. I sat with my windows open is case it would go down.”

Asked how quick this bridge is deteriorating, Timberlake said MDOT inspections are done regularly. As far as a bridge collapse, she noted, “We’ll not let it get to the point where something like that would happen.”

Mexico Selectman Reggie Arsenault said the approach on both ends of the bridge needs to be wide to accommodate truck traffic.

Madigan suggested that a traffic light be placed at the intersection on the Mexico side. He also said the construction would also be a good time to build a public boat ramp in that area, which he said is needed.

MDOT officials said they would have to partner with someone to make a boat ramp happen.

Rep. Sheryl Briggs of Mexico asked about a time frame for the bridge work.

MDOT officials said that by late summer, they will determine a firm location and structure type, and that will give them an idea of the cost.

They said they will be working on a preliminary design over the next few months and expect to wrap up the preliminary design by the end of the summer, and come back to the public this fall for another informational meeting.

For more information, call project manager Leanne Timberlake at 624-3490.

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