FARMINGTON — Selectmen Tuesday night, Sept. 14, approved using $5,000 from the Rail Trail Bridge Reserve Account to go towards a pre-engineering report for rebuilding a bridge in West Farmington.

The railroad bridge that allowed snowmobile travel across the Sandy River was removed several years ago. Since then the town, Androscoggin Valley Council of Government, and the state have looked at ways to replace it. A study in the early 2000s estimated the cost at $1.6 million.

A new way is being looked at for crossing that span, Town Manager Christian Waller said.

A requirement of a federal tourism grant being worked on is having a pre-engineering report, High Peaks Alliance Executive Director Brent West said. $5,000 each has been secured through snowmobile clubs and a personal donation towards the $15,000 cost for the report, he noted.

If approved, the tourism grant can cover upwards of 80% of construction costs, West stated.

“Eventually there would be a need for state, local or a combination of both for a match of 20%,” he said. The person donating the $5,000 has also indicated a willingness to donate substantially towards the match once the total cost is known, he stated.


The bridge would be cable stayed, similar to a suspension bridge in that it’s free span and wouldn’t need the center pier, West noted. That would alleviate some of the issues with permitting, going in the Sandy River, he added.

All easements needed on both sides of the river are in place and a meeting with University of Maine at Farmington officials was held to discuss their needs, West said.

“I’d love to see that span put back together,” Selectman Stephan Bunker said. Increased business in town and getting snowmobiles off Center Bridge were noted positives. “Between the southern end of the county and the northern end, this is the missing link. It would improve movement in both directions.”

“A lot of snowmobilers bypass Farmington as it’s difficult to navigate,” West said.

Approaching the county and other towns was suggested by Bunker. They are trying to set priorities on how to use coronavirus relief funds and he sees the project as being more regional rather than just Farmington.

“It really is a regional project, will have a big impact on the downtown,” West said. He plans to connect with all the towns.


The Androscoggin swinging bridge in Auburn is the same length, was built in 1893, he said. That tells West there is a chance of pulling it off and that it isn’t a 20 year investment but a 130 year one.

All of the opportunities that could arise from better connectivity with the downtown, help for UMF, it would be a draw regionally for sure, he said. The congressional delegation has been talked with regarding other federal funding should the grant not work out, he noted.

“I’m in full support of this,” Selectman Scott Landry, who is also treasurer of High Peaks Alliance, said. “It’s been a topic of discussion a long time to bring the whole county together. People in Wilton and Jay are excited. It will help them.”

The connection to Titcomb Mountain would be good for bikers, West said.

“Recreational visitors generally have disposable income,” he noted. “When traveling they’re spending money, shopping.”

The reserve account has more than $5,000 in it, Waller said prior to the vote.

That account should be kept in mind when developing the next budget, Bunker said.

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