BANGOR, Maine — While neither bridge may see much work this summer, both the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge and the Webster Avenue Bridge are slated for improvements ranging from a new paint job to total replacement.
The Maine Department of Transportation held the first of two public meetings on the bridges in Bangor City Council chambers Wednesday evening, with the Webster Avenue Bridge’s eventual reconstruction being the main topic.
A structural engineer who inspected the bridge said its substructure is rated as a 4. The Maine DOT considers a rating of 4 or less structurally deficient, but Maine DOT Bridge Program project manager Stephen Bodge reiterated that rating doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to use.
It does mean that the Webster Avenue Bridge will move up the DOT’s priority list. But it doesn’t mean DOT officials have a preliminary startup date or cost estimate for the project.
“We’ve completed ground and bridge component surveys, traffic research and other pertinent studies,” said Bodge. “I’m sorry I can’t give you a better idea of a timetable, which is due to the state’s budget concerns.
“The earliest funding could be secured is October 2013 and the preliminary figures range from $200,000 to $600,000.”
Bodge said federal funds would cover 90 percent of the project’s cost, with Maine picking up the remaining 10 percent.
The project could involve either total replacement of the 53-year-old Webster Bridge, which carries Interstate 395 over Webster Avenue, or replacement of the substructure, which includes a concrete deck on rolled steel beams with concrete abutments.
Bodge and fellow DOT officials told a small group at the public meeting that they plan to maintain the vertical and horizontal alignment of the three-span bridge, which has sections of 36, 43 and 36 feet in length, but may rebuild it to a smaller scale.
Meeting attendees voiced concerns about the bridge being shut down or closed and how that could hurt access to bicycle and hiking trails as well as travel in the area, especially during an emergency situation at Bangor International Airport, but were assured that the bridge will not be closed or altered as far as its route and may be improved with the addition of a bypass.
The Joshua Chamberlain Bridge project won’t have its public DOT hearing until 6 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at the Bangor City Hall chambers, but that work may get done before the Webster Avenue Bridge.
“We’re pretty much at the same stage with both bridge projects,” said Art Morgan, Bangor’s director of public services. “Right now what they’re looking to do is a repainting of the rails, but based on the existing condition of the rails, it may be less expensive to just actually replace them with galvanized rail.”
Morgan said the Chamberlain bridge project may begin this summer but it more likely will start a year later. The work only involves the railing.
“If you walk across the bridge, however, you’ll see places where the rail has completely rusted through,” Morgan said. “It’s adequate for people to lean against at this time, but it’s certainly an eyesore and it’s getting weaker all the time.”