Construction crews are cutting through the base of the Brewer side of the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge to extend the Brewer Riverwalk along the Penobscot River.
Brewer city engineer Frank Higgins said on Friday morning that once the project is complete this fall, the bridge will have two 10-foot tunnels running through it.
“Once it’s done, there will be 10-foot by 10-foot holes in both the upstream and downstream abutments,” Higgins said. “You’ll literally be able to walk through a concrete bridge.”
Crews this week began cutting temporary holes through both sides of the bridge — one on the side of the bridge facing High Tide Restaurant, the other located adjacent to the Getchell Bros. Ice Company and Creative Arts Center properties. Workers will then install temporary shoring to support the bridge during the project. After the shoring is installed, they will remove all the dirt and gravel contained inside the bridge stack. They will then cut even bigger holes, which will be filled with concrete reinforcing on all sides.
Higgins said that lighting will be installed in the tunnels, and fencing will be put up along the entrances so people won’t be able to crawl along the sides of the bridge. Any further embellishments to the tunnels will come later, after the work is complete.
“It’ll be like walking through a big house made of concrete,” he said. “There’s all kinds of talk about what we could put in there afterwards, like a mural or something. Right now, though, we’re just putting a hole through the bridge so you can get from one side to the other, without crossing that awful intersection at Wilson Street.”
The Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, built in 1954, has undergone a number of changes over the years. Until 1970, it was a toll bridge, with a toll plaza on the Brewer side.
For decades, it was known as the “new bridge,” as it was the second bridge constructed across the Penobscot River, after the Bangor-Brewer Bridge connecting Broadway in Bangor and State Street in Brewer. A third bridge, carrying I-395 across the river, opened in 1986.
The first section of the Brewer Riverwalk was completed in July 2013, and stretches a half-mile from Mason’s Brewing Company to the bridge. The second section will continue from the new bridge tunnels to Veteran’s Park on Penobscot Street.
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