June 25, 2018
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Down East’s FDR Bridge moving slightly, but officials are unfazed

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

LUBEC, Maine — The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, a massive span between Lubec, Maine, and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, is moving slightly, Canadian transportation officials confirmed Tuesday.

But in the same breath, bridge officials on both sides of the border said there are no immediate dangers or safety concerns. Maine’s bridge expert said the span appears to be moving only on the Canadian side.

The international bridge is owned half and half by Maine and Canada and was opened for traffic in 1962. The bridge spans “The Narrows,” an area of swift and treacherous tidal currents. At the time, it cost $1 million to build the 879-foot long bridge with a foundation that is anchored 100 feet below the sea floor. The archway of the bridge rises 48 feet above the water at high tide.

Although there are 17 bridges in Washington County that are on the state’s “watch list” due to deficiencies, the FDR Bridge is not among them.

“But I would guess that the bridge will need to be replaced in the next several years,” John Buxton, MDOT’s bridge engineer said Tuesday. “It is going to need a new deck soon at least.”

Buxton said he will work closely with his Canadian counterparts over the next year to determine the scope of repairs or replacement.

Glenn MacDonald, bridge expert for the New Brunswick Department of Transportation, confirmed Tuesday that inclinometers were placed on concrete bridge piers nearest the Canadian island in December 2009. An inclinometer measures tilt or vertical plumb, he said, and movement has been detected.

“We are not really concerned,” he said, but added, “We’ve always identified that something a little different was happening on this bridge. We have always noticed some pier movement.”

MacDonald said he believes the movement stems from the original construction process and that it can be traced to temperature fluctuations.

He said NBDOT has hired a consultant to look at rehabilitation of the bridge and said the concrete deck on the Canadian side is also deteriorating.

The FDR Memorial Bridge is the only year-round link to the mainland for nearly 1,000 Campobello Island residents. In the summer months, two ferries also provide access. Canadian residents must cross the bridge to access service stations, medical services, including emergency transportation, and police protection. Neither Maine nor Canada has done any significant repair work to the bridge since the 1960s.

According to a report released last month by Transportation for America, Maine has far more deficient bridges than the national average. The report states that more than 15.4 percent of Maine’s bridges are deficient and in need of reconstruction or rehabilitation. The national average, the report indicates, is 11.5 percent.

Between May and December this year, the state expects to advertise for bids on repairs or replacement of 16 bridges, according to the MDOT. Timing on the construction will depend on the bids and funding.

Those bridges and the estimates of costs for work are:

Tibbetts Bridge, Winterport-Frankfort, replacement, $1.7 million; Muddy River Bridge, Topsham, substructure, $197,000; South Portland Interchange replacement, $1.3 million; Memorial Bridge at Augusta, painting, $13.5 million; Sweetser Bridge, Gray, deck replacement, $642,000; Mill Brook Bridge, Westbrook, replacement, $1.4 million; Canal Street Bridge, Wilton, replacement, $544,000; International Bridge, Fort Kent, replacement, $7.79 million; Benton-Fairfield Bridge, deck replacement, $3.2 million; Fairfield I-95 Bridge, deck replacement, $1.2 million; Bootfoot Bridge, Bridgewater, replacement, $378,000; Martin Point Bridge, Falmouth-Portland, replacement, $32 million; Rickers Bridge, Turner, replacement, $604,000; Cumberland Mills Bridge, east and west, Westbrook, replacement, $6.5 million; Maine Kennebec Bridge, Richmond, replacement, $22.4 million.


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