PORTLAND, Maine — Lingering winter weather has postponed the opening of a new bridge between Portland and Falmouth.
The new Martin’s Point Bridge, which has been under construction for more than a year, was originally scheduled to open in mid-May, but cold temperatures in March stymied progress, according to Carol Morris, spokeswoman for the $24 million project.
Morris said the bridge will open sometime this summer, but wouldn’t narrow it down to a specific month.
“At this point, they are reluctant to project any kind of (opening) date,” Morris said of CPM Constructors, the company in charge of the project. “It’s just too hard to tell.”
Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the bridge will be opened to traffic in late June or early July “at the latest.”
Many of the remaining projects are weather dependent, including pouring a concrete bridge deck that will later be paved. In order to pour concrete in large sections, the workers need a few consecutive days of temperatures higher than 45 degrees, Morris said. The cold weather also delayed earth work because of persistent frost.
Temperatures throughout March were noteworthy this year. According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature in Portland was 27 degrees, or 6.5 degrees below normal, making it the fourth-coldest March on record for the city.
Throughout winter, workers at the site poured concrete for smaller sections, which could be insulated and kept warm with heating tubes. For those projects, the air temperature had to be a minimum of 36 degrees and rising, and the mix kept at 50 degrees or higher until it cured.
That approach simply isn’t feasible for large sections, Morris said.
“As soon as they get those (weather) windows, they are going to be working as hard as they can,” she said.
Other projects include earth work at both abutments and installing railings on both sides of the bridge.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Morris said. “The bridge has certainly come a long way, but quite a lot of it is still unfinished.”
Landscaping and other construction projects will continue after the bridge opens to traffic.
The old bridge, which is still carrying traffic between U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth and Veranda Street on a narrowed deck, will be demolished by the end of the year. CPM Constructors will use large saws to remove the decking. Then, a barge will be used to either pull out the wood pilings or cut them off a foot below the mud line.
In the initial days after the bridge opening, both bridges will be in use, with northbound traffic on the new bridge and southbound on the old.
When construction is complete, the new Martin’s Point Bridge will be among the widest two-lane bridges in Maine — about 44 feet wide with a 5-foot sidewalk on the western side, 5-foot shoulders on both sides, two 12-foot vehicle lanes and a 10-foot multi-use path for cyclists, runners and pedestrians. There will also be two “bump-outs” on the eastern side to allow recreational fishing.
The existing Martin’s Point Bridge was built between 1941 and ’42. It was constructed with wooden piles instead of steel, because metals were in high demand for the war effort.
The new bridge is designed to last 100 years.