Brewer officials: Tunnel for riverside trail is the talk of the town

Posted Jan. 10, 2017, at 8:18 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — One of three alternatives for extending the city’s riverwalk trail north of the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge included going down the driveway of the Creative Arts Center, so owner Steve Wong is very happy the trail will now tunnel through the base of the bridge instead.

“That was the worst one,” Wong said Tuesday before a meeting hosted by the Maine Department of Transportation about plans for extending the walking trail from where it ends at Wilson Street to just south of the Penobscot Bridge.

About 25 people attended the Maine DOT meeting at Brewer City Hall, where officials outlined plans for the 1,700-foot trail extension that will be paid for with funds left over from a 2005 federal transportation earmark. The city will contribute $263,000 towards the project, it was announced at the meeting. Mayor Kevin O’Connell said people all over town are talking about the tunnel.

Patrick Adams, manager of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program for Maine DOT, said state officials didn’t like the trail crossing busy Wilson Street, and were happy when city officials suggested the tunnel in the base of the bridge, which was built in 1954 as a toll bridge and has open space underneath. The bridge took tolls until 1971.

“The good thing is it can be done,” Jim Wentworth, senior project manager for Kleinfelder, an engineering consulting firm based out of Augusta hired by the Maine DOT to design the trail, told residents.

The plan calls for cutting a couple of holes in the side walls of the base of the bridge, removing the dirt underneath and adding walls, lighting and security cameras, Wentworth said.

The new trail will mirror the current 1,900-foot waterfront trail that was built in July 2013 and connects the former public works lot on Hardy Street, now home to Mason’s Brewing Co., to Wilson Street and has bench seating and light poles.

Phase two of Brewer’s riverside trail will range from 8 to 12 feet wide and stretch north for approximately 1,700 feet.

“The path officially ends at the Veterans Park,” Travis Wolfel, civil highway engineer for Kleinfelder, said of a small park just south of the Penobscot Bridge.

The tunnel will be an approximately 10-by-10-foot opening through the bridge, which is about 60 feet wide, Wolfel told the group.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2018 and the entire project is expected to take about three months, with the tunnel portion taking around three weeks of night work, he said.

Residents at the meeting asked about parking, flooding and the trail right-of-ways, which the city is responsible for acquiring, Wentworth said.

The city already added two dozen parking spots at the end of Penobscot Street to prepare for trail users, and the owner of High Tide Restaurant has set aside a couple spots in his lot, according to Nicole Gogan, Brewer’s deputy director of economic development.

“My biggest concern is parking,” Wong said, adding he is happy with the plans.

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