BANGOR, Maine — The Union Street bridge that passes over Interstate 95 is about to be replaced in a project that will take 2½ years and $10 million to complete, and the Maine Department of Transportation on Wednesday urged motorists to take alternate routes.
“We encourage people to drive safely through the work zone and avoid the area if possible,” said Steve Bodge, project manager with the Maine Department of Transportation. The reason: MDOT will be shutting down two of the four lanes of traffic over the bridge that some 19,000 vehicles pass over on an average day. An average 44,000 vehicles pass under the 54-year-old overpass daily.
The project, which entered planning and design stages in 2010, began last month with underground utility replacement work. MDOT doesn’t expect to clear out of the area until November 2016. CPM Constructors of Freeport is the contractor.
Side streets, including 17th, 16th, 15th, Beecher and Eddyway streets, as well as Sunset Avenue and Autumn Street West, will be cut off at Union Street starting on the week of May 19. Union Street access from and to those streets will not be restored until the project is completed. Because Sunset Avenue and Autumn Street West are dead-end streets, DOT is in the process of building a new temporary road connecting those streets to Texas Avenue. That road will be removed once the project wraps up.
The two westbound lanes of the bridge (the lanes closest to Ohio Street) will shut down on May 27. Two-way traffic will be allowed to cross in the remaining two lanes. Next summer, the north half of the bridge will be completed and MDOT will switch construction to the other side of the bridge, reopening the two completed lanes and closing the other two. When all construction is complete, the bridge will be five lanes, according to Bodge.
People exiting or entering I-95 via Union Street will only be able to make right-hand turns. Left-hand turns will not be allowed because traffic will be backed up, according to MDOT.
Bodge said MDOT considered closing the bridge altogether until the replacement was finished, which likely would have taken less time, but traffic models projected that would cause far too much traffic on neighboring streets, making it “relatively impossible.”
Also, the Ohio street offramp, which connects Union and Ohio streets, has been closed permanently. Crews are rebuilding the Union Street I-95 North onramp to make it easier and safer to merge. MDOT says that ramp’s design, which requires drivers to accelerate rapidly to merge onto the busy stretch of interstate, contributes to a lot of crashes.
Businesses around the bridge will remain open and will have access by both foot and car, Bodge stressed.
For more details about the project, visit www.maine.gov/mdot/majorprojects.htm or subscribe to receive traffic updates from the City of Bangor at www.egovlink.com/bangor/subscriptions/subscribe.asp.