BETHEL — Repairing the Route 2 bridge over the Androscoggin River next year could require alternating one-way traffic for six months.

Maine Department of Transportation engineers presented preliminary information on the project recently at a public hearing in Bethel.

The bridge, built in 1968, needs the concrete decking replaced and it has rust and corrosion problems underneath, engineer Garrett Gustafson said. In addition, “scouring” of the riverbed around the support piers will require placement of riprap or concrete/cable mats around them for stabilization.

Gustafson said the project would start in late March 2015 and conclude in late October or early November. The current cost estimate is $3.5 million.

There are two options for traffic control during the work period: alternating one-way traffic, or a temporary bridge placed just upstream of the existing bridge.

Gustafson said the traffic volume on the road is 8,700 vehicles a day. “That’s a very high volume,” he said. “It’s at the upper end of the bracket of what we would allow for one-way traffic.”

If that option is chosen, a traffic light would be placed at either end of the bridge. Each light would be set to allow vehicles to pass through one way for about three minutes before changing to red.

A temporary bridge would cost MDOT between $800,000 and $1 million.

“It’s a really expensive six-month cost,” Gustafson said.

The plan also calls for putting a new rail on the bridge, which would widen the 3-foot shoulder slightly. The travel lanes are each 12 feet wide.

Citizen input

Three Bethel residents, two of whom live near the bridge, attended the hearing.

One noted that many cyclists and joggers currently ride across the highway bridge instead of using the adjacent recreational bridge.

Stan Howe, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, wondered if a better connection between the ends of the two bridges might be incorporated into the work in order to encourage more people to use the recreational bridge.

MDOT project manager Joel Kittredge said that could not happen as part of this project because the funding sources for highway bridge work and bike/pedestrian work are separate.

“We would be hard pressed to make an argument for improving pedestrian access as part of this,” he said.

Howe asked if the highway bridge work might at least be done in a manner “to make it easier to do that in the future.”

Kittredge said Howe’s point was valid, and he would talk to the bike/pedestrian program director about a better connector in the future.

As for the impact of a potential one-way traffic arrangement during construction, Kittredge told one resident who lives next to the bridge that her driveway would likely “be backed up with traffic — hard to get in and out for a while.” 

The engineers said they will return in November with detailed recommendations for the traffic plan, time frame for work and design.

Inquiries about the project may be directed to Gustafson at (207) 624-3419 or [email protected] gov; or to Kittredge at (207) 557-2193 or [email protected]maine.gov.

Cyclist reaction

After the meeting, the Citizen contacted Peter Southam, who owns Bethel Bicycle shop near the bridge. He was asked about cyclists’ current use of the bridges and whether a better connection might steer them toward the smaller bridge.

“Road cyclists will generally avoid cycling paths and the recreational bridge because they go too fast for this to be safe with dogs, kids, and pedestrians,” he said in an email. “Mountain bikers and kids on bikes and cyclists who fear the road will generally use the recreational path/bridge. Currently, the splintered wood on the rec bridge makes it dangerous for road bikes.

“Also, there is no paved exit back onto Route 2 on the north side of the bridge for a rider to continue north. A better connection might help, but would still not be used by most road cyclists. During mountain bike season, I tend to send my kids on the rec bridge. My road cycling team uses the road bridge.”


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