BETHEL — Rebuilding the deck of the Androscoggin River Bridge on Route 2 is slated to start next April and take five or six months, residents at Tuesday night’s public hearing by the Maine Department of Transportation were told.

Project Manager Joel Kittredge said that while the bridge is in decent shape, the deck was in “really bad shape.”

“The road is starting to crack, and water is starting to leak through,” Kittredge said.

He said the project would cost around $3.6 million, with 80 percent covered by federal funds and 20 percent by the state.

Design engineer Jim Manser told residents that the bridge was constructed in 1968, and is at “half of its life expectancy.”

“The steel on the bridge looks pretty good,” Manser said. “What’s driving this project is the deck. It’s in a bad place. There are some cracks in the road that allow water to seep through and do damage to the steel beams. The idea is to fix the deck before too much damage is done.”

Manser said the contractor would rebuild one lane at a time.

“We would set up traffic lights on each end of the bridge, and one side would cross the bridge at a time,” Manser said.

A traffic survey on the bridge completed in 2014 revealed that approximately 8,750 cars travel the road per day, Manser said, with 10 percent of them trucks.

One resident expressed concerns that the traffic would be backed up every day.

Kittredge said, “I’m not going to lie and say that traffic won’t be backed up. Eight thousand cars is on the higher end of the spectrum, in terms of using traffic lights to control traffic, but it’s certainly a better option compared to the alternatives.”

Manser said other options include building a temporary bridge farther down the river, or closing the bridge and rerouting traffic.

“The problem with a temporary bridge is that it would probably cost over $1 million,” Manser said. “That’s a lot of money for this kind of project. Also, we looked into rerouting traffic, and it would be impractical to do that. We need to think about emergency vehicles and school buses.”

Manser said final design work is due to be finished by the end of October, and the project would go out to bid shortly after.

“Our hope is to award the bid sometime in early December, with construction beginning as soon as the weather allows,” Manser said. “We’re guessing that will be sometime around early April.”

Construction on the deck replacement would last for five or six months, Manser said.

“That’s the issue that will likely be most concerning to folks,” Manser said. “A lot of people will likely wonder why it’s going to take so long to complete the project, and why traffic will be backed up so bad. The thing is, this is the best option that doesn’t involve closing the bridge or building a temporary bridge.”

Kittredge said he thought the deck replacement was a “good project” for the town.

“Sometimes, it makes more sense to spend money on rehabilitating a bridge rather than replacing it,” Kittredge said.

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