NEWPORT, Maine — Construction work on the Main Street bridge in Newport, which carries routes 2, 7 and 100 over the Sebasticook River’s east branch, is nearing completion and the span could reopen to traffic by the end of this month, Town Manager Jim Ricker said.
“I think they’ve done a tremendous job so far,” he said.
“I would say that we are on schedule,” added Michelle Boone of the Maine Department of Transportation.
Construction on the $1.7M project kicked off on March 2, with one lane remaining open to vehicles until the bridge completely closed to traffic in May.
Ricker said at a selectmen’s meeting last week that he anticipates the bridge will open to vehicular traffic on Aug. 31 at the earliest. Boone agrees.
She said the bridge deck has been installed and that pavement for the sidewalk was being worked on Monday, while some nuts-and-bolts work remains to be done.
“We have a lot of the intricate stuff that’s left,” Boone said, referring to paving and work on the approach to the structure. “As far as the bridge goes, that is really moving along quite well.”
Boone said one section of the concrete guardrail, known as “Texas rail,” has been completed, while another was being constructed on Monday.
Gravel on the road leading up to the structure still needs to be put down, according to Boone.
Once the bridge opens to traffic, there will be less of a commuting headache for motorists heading into downtown Newport. In addition, truckers whose rigs weigh more than 69,000 pounds will no longer face an 18-mile one-way detour across secondary roads in three towns.
“I think it’s going to be extremely more convenient than it has been in the past,” Ricker said. “Our side streets will probably see 80 percent less traffic than they have been in the last three months. We’ll see an increased … flow in truck traffic. You’ve got trucks now doing detours of some 35 miles around this.”
Heavy trucks heading westbound from the Bangor area were rerouted from U.S. Route 2 onto Route 143 in Etna, then to Route 222 in Stetson and Route 7 in Corinna, while the route was reversed for eastbound truckers.
“A lot of people are really excited about the opening,” said Boone. “It’ll be nice to be able to take the detoured trucks back over the bridge again.”
Boone said that 12 workers from CPM Constructors of Freeport were working on the structure on Monday morning and 30 crew members were on the job when the deck was placed earlier this spring.
The old bridge was built in 1930, and the reconstruction will make the span sturdy for decades to come, according to Ricker.
“It’s going to be a safe passage, first and foremost,” he said.