PARIS — The Billings Bridge replacement project will now span two years with no cost to the town, according to Maine Department of Transportation and town officials.

On Wednesday, May 17, the DOT held its second hearing on the Paris project, which is scheduled for 2018-19. The current bridge on East Main Street – which crosses the Little Androscoggin River and abuts the Billings Dam and Doughboys Variety – was built in 1938 and the deck and railings are in poor condition, necessitating its replacement. The estimated $2.1 million project will be paid for with 80 percent federal and 20 percent state funds, according to Project Manager Joel Kittredge.

The rough time line for the project includes beginning work on the bridge in the spring of 2018, with an expected completion date of late summer, 2019, said Town Manager Vic Hodgkins.

“They hope to do a lot of the prep work, if you will, for the base of the bridge and perhaps get a start on building the deck of the bridge [in 2018],” he said. “The majority of the deck of the bridge will be done in 2019.”

Part of the project is working with the Paris Utility District as there are water and sewer lines that currently run on the bridge, which will need to remain.

“We’ll think about which [bridge] bays they will fall in,” Kittredge said. “They have to go when we go. There is a lot of coordination.”

The DOT will remain in the right of way as much as possible and push the new bridge to the north side a few feet, according to Hodgkins.

“The [current] bridge itself is straight – this bridge will follow the natural curve … of the entry and exit points … to match with the road,” he said. “One of the benefits of that [is] it will take out what I call the crook in the road.”

The current bridge has combined 14-foot wide traffic lanes with 8 feet of space, including sidewalks on both sides, Kittredge said.

“What we’re proposing to do [is] it will be designated two 11-foot travel lanes, two paved 4-foot shoulders and a sidewalk on the dam side,” he said, noting the current bridge is narrow. “It will be much improved. It will be very clean, very well delineated with standard widths.”

“It will be just a little more elbow room,” Hodgkins said.

There are roughly 8,600 vehicles that travel across the bridge a day, according to Kittredge.

“They are super sensitive to the town’s needs to keep at least one lane of the bridge open. … There were a lot of good questions asked last Wednesday night – a lot about traffic flow, which they’re going to double check and rethink a little bit,” Hodgkins said. “They are going to be building the bridge deck in sections so all or most of the time there should be at least one lane going through there.”

Kittredge confirmed this, adding there will be automatic traffic lights installed on either side of the bridge and another at Oxford Street.

He added the response from the audience was positive and he did not hear any objections to the project.

“I did hear the concern about people flying down through there,” he continued. “We encounter that at every job that we do when we build something new.”

Hodgkins said his major concern was timing of the bridge replacement project with other DOT projects in 2019. The latter includes the state redoing Fair Street along Main Street down through Market Square and ending at Porter Street, and a separate paving project from Porter Street to West Paris.

“You have a lot happening in 2019 so they’re going to talk to one another and take a look at their plans and see if they’re going to be bumping up against each other,” Hodgkins said. “We don’t want a mass traffic jam or newly laid pavement with equipment being hauled around [on it].”

There is a short piece of road between the bridge and Market Square that was not slated to be redone, but it could be included in the Porter Street to West Paris project, Hodgkins added.

Kittredge said DOT officials are following up on these projects and concerns.

“We want to make sure we do it smart, we do the right thing, do the right fix,” he said. “If there are other potential projects in the area, we need to coordinate.”

Now that the second public hearing is over, the DOT is moving into the design contract phase with VHB from South Portland for the final design.

“There is a lot to do design-wise between now and November,” Kittredge said.

The DOT will advertise for the bridge replacement in December and award the bid in January 2018.

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