BANGOR, Maine — Maine Department of Transportation officials hope two significant construction projects will improve traffic flow in Bangor.
With increased traffic causing more noticeable backups and slowdowns on certain main roadways, an $8.7 million replacement of the Union Street bridge overpass above Interstate 95, which will be handled in two construction phases in 2013 and 2014, and a $206,000 widening of the southbound offramp from I-95 onto Broadway, which could be started and completed as early as spring 2013, should help ease congestion.
“These projects are partially a response to the results of a Bangor I-95 corridor study released in just the past year and conducted over the past couple years,” said Al Godfrey, consulting engineer for site development with Terra Magna Services Inc. of Gardiner, which did the design work for the Broadway ramp project.
“It’s going to be two years total on the bridge. Best case, we start in spring of 2014 and finish in the fall of 2015,” said Steve Bodge, project manager for DOT’s bridge program. “We’ll remove and rebuild one half the bridge and then do the same thing on the other.”
The Union Street bridge replacement plan also involves widening the roadway as well as the sidewalk.
“The Union Street project involves adding a fifth lane for left-turning traffic onto the interstate in the inbound direction, so that should help that whole area between Fourteenth Street and on up to Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets, which can be congested,” said Dana Wardwell, Bangor’s Public Works director. “Having five lanes versus the four should help out a lot, and five-foot sidewalks will be much easier for us to clear, too.”
Bodge and Wardwell said traffic flow will be reduced on the bridge from four lanes to two — one in each direction — during the entire construction phase.
“We’ve been planning for months how to deal with traffic and we think we’ve got a plan that will work,” said Bodge. “We’ll close off some streets that connect to Union to get that traffic to exit off away from it onto Ohio Street.
“We will also have some interstate [lane] closures for four to eight hours at a time when we’re working overhead and replacing beams.”
Wardwell pointed out that the current bridge also is lower than federal and state standards.
“It’s been hit by logging trucks a couple times, so given the need to alleviate congestion and address the height issue, it makes it feasible to replace the bridge rather than repair it,” Wardwell said.
Bodge said a DOT survey determined that the Union Street bridge, which was built in 1960, gets an average of 17,000 vehicles driving on it per day. Both he and Wardwell are emphasizing that it is not unsafe.
“There is some deterioration, but not to the point it’s become a danger,” Bodge said. “The Ohio Street bridge, built around the same time, was put off six to eight years because it’s in even better shape.”
Congestion also is an issue with the I-95 southbound exit ramp (Exit 185) and the Broadway intersection it connects with.
“It’s backing up today excessively all the way to the end of the ramp and is a potential safety problem, so it’s something we felt should be done,” said Godfrey.
The project will widen a 350-foot section of the southbound offramp from Broadway by 9 feet.
Bids could go out as early as this fall.
Godfrey said a DOT survey taken over 2010 and 2011 shows an average traffic rate of 5,250 vehicles per day at that Broadway intersection with 3 percent — or 158 vehicles — of that being truck traffic. The same study projects that rate to increase to 6,700 per day over 20 years.
“Bangor has been growing for several decades now and I think projects like this are representative of the growth we’ve seen, and probably will continue to see,” Godfrey said. “We’re seeing projections of 1½ percent a year, on average, over the next 20 years in traffic and that’s higher than a lot of areas in the state.”