RUMFORD — A Maine Department of Transportation project encompassing two downtown bridges will necessitate detouring Route 108 traffic through the downtown beginning Monday, May 9.

George Tuttle of Mexico, supervisor for CPM Constructors of Freedom, said the project calls for replacing the deck of the Upper Canal Bridge and painting the Morse Bridge nearby.

Traffic from Route 108 will go through the town parking lot by the old Agway building by the Hartford Street Bridge to Hartford Street to get to the downtown. Heavy trucks will be rerouted over Route 2.

At a public hearing last year, MDOT Project Manager Andrew Lathe said the traffic light at the end of Congress Street will be replaced with a flashing yellow signal because there will be no approaching traffic in either direction.

Traffic at the end of Congress Street going right can go across Morse Bridge, which will be one-way, single-lane only heading out of town to reconnect to Route 2.

Eastbound traffic will be denied entry onto Morse Bridge, and will have to travel up Route 2, take the rotary and cross Chisholm Park Bridge to Portland Street. Drivers will then bear right onto Congress Street.

“Our intent is to put a stop sign on Congress Street, where there isn’t one now,” he said. “This will make the intersection of Hartford and Congress a three-way intersection.”

Eastbound traffic will stop at the stop sign, turn left, use the Hartford Street Bridge and access the bypass to head east on Route 108.

Pedestrian traffic will be able to get to either side of Morse Bridge during the project, which will take three to four months.

The Upper Canal Bridge work is estimated to cost $2.08 million; the Morse Bridge painting, $1.75 million.

Lathe said the Upper Canal Bridge was built in 1954. It carries an average of 8,200 vehicles a day, truck traffic comprising 13 percent of that number. It was last resurfaced in 1983.

The Morse Bridge was built in 1936.

Lathe said the two-span bridge is the only one of its kind in the state. It was last painted in 1990 and the deck and other repairs were done in 2001. It will be repainted the same shade of green.

Regarding the use of the parking lot for rerouting traffic, Lathe said, “It’s the state’s position right now that we don’t own the property and we’re not looking to buy the property. We’re going to try to get temporary construction rights. Depending upon what the town wants to do, we’re only designing the right for a temporary paving surface. When we pick up our toys and leave, we will leave it in the condition that it was, and remove the paving surface itself and return it to the dirt parking lot that it is now.

“I’m told that we can’t leave the paving surface in place because it’s really temporary and not designed to be a long-term wearing surface.”

If the town wants the gravel to be kept there, that’s fine, he said. 

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