FORT KENT, Maine – The Maine Department of Transportation will be closing a bridge that serves as a vital link between Maine and Canada for a routine inspection Thursday, but the Police Department does not expect any major traffic issues as a result.
Mark Latti, public information director for DOT, said Wednesday that the 81-year-old International Bridge connecting Fort Kent to Clair, New Brunswick, will be shut down for a customary inspection starting at 8 a.m. The bridge could be closed until 4 p.m., but Latti said that inspectors could be off the structure sooner than that.
“This is just a scheduled inspection to monitor the bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced,” said Latti. “This is nothing out of the ordinary, we are just checking to make sure things are OK.”
Officials from both the U.S. and Canada declared the current steel and concrete structure functionally and structurally obsolete in 2009 and unveiled plans for a replacement bridge to be located 15 feet downriver from the current bridge. Construction is slated to begin on that new bridge in September with an estimated completion date by 2013.
About 1,900 vehicles a day travel over the bridge, including 45 heavy trucks, according to Maine Department of Transportation statistics.
Cranes and other equipment will occupy the roadway as crews inspect both the top and the underside of the bridge.
Crews also will be inspecting the Fish River Bridge on Main Street. Traffic will be restricted to a single lane while that is going on. The Fort Kent Mills Bridge, which connects Route 11 to the Caribou Road, also is being checked.
A dispatcher with the Fort Kent Police Department said Wednesday afternoon that most of the traffic from New Brunswick, such as employees who work at Northern Maine Medical Center and other locations in the community, likely will be in Fort Kent by 8 a.m. and the bridge will likely be open again by the time they are ready to leave. MDOT could be finished inspecting the bridge sooner than they anticipate.