Penobscot Narrows Bridge observation tower to be closed for maintenance

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff
Posted June 08, 2011, at 5:50 p.m.

PROSPECT, Maine — The observatory atop the Penobscot Narrows Bridge will be closed for two days next week to allow crews from the Maine Department of Transportation to perform necessary maintenance.

The observatory will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 14 and 15. Work inside the observatory is expected to be completed within those two days, according to MDOT officials, but it could extend into a third day if there are delays.

The bridge itself will remain open while the work is being done.

Crews will be working inside the observatory to improve the louvers on vents above the windows that provide ventilation to the facility, according to MDOT spokesman Mark Latti. There has been a problem with moisture getting into the tower during rainstorms, Latti said Wednesday.

The project involves lengthening the louvres on the vents, he said.

“We’ve had some moisture seeping in there in the current configuration and we’ve been looking at what we can do to limit moisture coming in,” Latti said. “We tested lengthening the louvers on other windows at the observatory and it has worked well, so we decided to do all the windows.”

There are a total of 51 louvers on the tower and 33 of them still need to be altered, Latti said.

Although Latti did not have an estimate on the cost of the vent work, he said it is not considered a major project. MDOT crews will weld an extra aluminum piece on to the existing louvers, so the costs involved will be “relatively minimal,” Latti said. The admission fee to the observatory provides funding for staffing and maintenance of the observation tower.

According to Latti, this is the first maintenance work to be done on the outside of the tower. Early on, computer problems had plagued the elevator that carries visitors to the observatory that sits atop the 420-foot tower. That issue has largely been corrected, although the computer still shuts down the elevator on occasion and can strand visitors in the observatory. Also, the divider median down the center of the bridge developed leaks and in 2008, the department applied a different sealant which resolved that problem.

According to Latti, MDOT crews also conduct routine maintenance on the the bridge itself. It is on the department’s two-year inspection cycle which includes monitoring the condition of the cables. The bridge was designed so that individual cables in the cable stays that support the bridge could be removed for inspection and, if needed, replacement, without disrupting traffic on the bridge.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/08/news/penobscot-narrows-bridge%c2%a0observation-tower-to-be-closed-for-maintenance/ printed on April 24, 2014