Tukey’s Bridge is open again, but ride on I-295 not smooth yet

Posted Sept. 01, 2011, at 4:08 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 02, 2011, at 5:11 a.m.

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I-295 upgrades in Greater Portland

  • SB bridges and highway through greater Portland, 2010 and 2011: $13M
  • NB bridges and highway, Falmouth to Freeport, 2010 and 2011: $8.6M
  • NB bridges, Tukeys area, 2011: $4.0M
  • NB and SB paving, Freeport to Brunswick, 2011: $6.5M
  • NB bridges through Portland, 2012: $4.2 est.
  • NB paving through Portland, 2013: $6.0 est.

Highway paving projects include incidentals like guard rail upgrades and new median cable guard rail.

Three year total of about $42M.

Source: Maine Department of Transportation

PORTLAND, Maine — If highway drivers through downtown Portland were hoping the reopening of lanes on Tukey’s Bridge last week signaled the end of bumpy travels on Interstate 295, they may be disappointed.

The summerlong resurfacing of Tukey’s Bridge headed north out of Maine’s largest city was the highest-profile part of a three-year, $42 million Maine Department of Transportation effort to maintain I-295 from the South Portland toll booth to the Brunswick exits.

On Aug. 25, the department trumpeted that traffic backups on the high-traffic bridge would be coming to an end: All lanes would be reopened during the daytime hours and access restored to Washington Avenue, which runs alongside I-295 through the northern part of the city but was cordoned off during the summer work.

Overnight paving work is still being done over Tukey’s Bridge and four I-295 bridges within 1,000 feet, said David Sherlock, the department’s bridge project manager, on Thursday.

The infrastructure improvements on Tukey’s Bridge and the nearby overpasses called for removal of existing pavement, repairs on the concrete deck, newly installed membranes, repaving, and repaired expansion joints on both sides of the bridge, according to a department announcement issued last week.

But just because the lanes over Tukey’s Bridge are now open doesn’t mean the I-295 trip through Portland is no longer teeth-rattling. Sherlock said widespread paving of the stretch from the South Portland toll booths and Tukey’s Bridge won’t be conducted until 2013, after resurfacing is done to 12 more bridges over that span in 2012.

In the meantime, the bumps will continue, and may even be worse as portions of the roadway are resurfaced before others.

“The [Aug. 25] announcement was [about] the daily traffic impact on Tukey’s Bridge,” Sherlock said. “The concrete barriers have been removed. But we’ll still have nighttime lane closures for paving and striping work.”

Jake Pierson, who lives in the north end of the city off Washington Avenue and commutes to the south end for work, had to maneuver around construction all summer. He said some of the changes made during the highway work to date he appreciates, such as the expansion of I-295 southbound to a full third lane leading into Exit 7, the Franklin Street exit.

But, he said, the biggest problems with I-295 through Portland are when on- and offramps are in the same location and lines of traffic must cross through.

“In the big picture, I don’t know that any of it was worth it, because I don’t know how much better they made it,” Pierson said. “If they were going to do it, they could have spent more money and fixed a lot of other issues.”

Sherlock said that wasn’t the scope of the project.

“These aren’t structural repairs,” he said. “This is preventative rehabilitation. You could draw a comparison to putting a new roof on your house before it starts to leak.”

In the long run, state transportation officials hope the series of projects will indeed make a difference in the comfort of motorists.

“We do expect it to ride better,” Sherlock said.

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