The cross-river connections between Bangor and Brewer will slightly change as the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge receives a long-awaited facelift later this year.
Opened to traffic on Nov. 11, 1954, the two-lane bridge provided a badly needed second span between Bangor and Brewer. Named for Brewer native and Civil War hero Joshua L. Chamberlain, the bridge was called “the new bridge” until the downstream I-395 bridge opened in November 1986.
Although it underwent some structural repairs several years ago, the Chamberlain Bridge has not been painted in a long time; today large gaps exist where the protective paint has worn off the bridge railings and structural steel.
A contractor will start painting the bridge this spring, according to Doug Coombs, a Maine Department of Transportation assistant project manager involved with the project. Olympus Painting of Tarpon Springs, Fla. submitted a low bid of $2.147 million for the project; with design and bridge-inspection costs, “the total [price] will be up around $3 million, approximately,” Coombs said.
“We plan to paint the bridge,” specifically “all the structural steel and the railings,” he said. Some railings “that are in very poor condition … will be replaced with new railings.”
The project will start in March with the contractor “getting things in place, and the actual completion date is Nov. 15,” Coombs said.
The existing lead-based paint must be removed before painting begins. Workers will “wrap” each section prior to sandblasting the steel, he said. During the sandblasting, a negative pressure will capture and contain all blasting media and paint particles.
A contractor recently used a similar process while painting the Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Coombs pointed out.
Sand-blasted steel will be painted with a primer and then with two coats of a non-lead-based paint, “the typical bridge paint that we use now,” he said. The bridge will be painted the same light green shade as it displays now.
During the project, the MDOT will close one lane on the Chamberlain Bridge, which will be open only for traffic headed from Brewer to Bangor. State and local officials “looked at several different scenarios” involving traffic flow and opted for the Brewer-to-Bangor alternative, Coombs said.
“We will modify some intersections” by changing “the timing of traffic lights” and painting new lane stripes, he said. “There are a total of 15 intersections that will have changes between the two cities. Some of the changes are minor, and they will be done in the field and adjusted as needed.”
Traffic that would normally use the Chamberlain Bridge to reach Brewer will be detoured to the upstream Penobscot Bridge. Summer Street in Bangor “will be down to one lane early in the project” as workers paint the Chamberlain Bridge overpass, Coombs said. That section of Union Street beneath the bridge will be limited to one lane at times, too.
One bridge sidewalk will be open to pedestrians at all times, he said.
The MDOT has not yet projected a date when the Chamberlain Bridge will be limited to one-way traffic. In a few weeks the MDOT will start publishing newspaper ads about the project; “advisory signing will be put up” on the major roads into Bangor and Brewer “well before the project actually starts,” Coombs said.