State reassures drivers that traffic won’t suffer from Deer Isle-Sedgwick bridge work

Scott Roy of J.D. Flagging directs traffic on the Deer Isle side of the Deer Isle - Sedgwick bridge in April 2007 as workers were making preparations to start replacing the concrete deck on the bridge.
Scott Roy of J.D. Flagging directs traffic on the Deer Isle side of the Deer Isle - Sedgwick bridge in April 2007 as workers were making preparations to start replacing the concrete deck on the bridge. Buy Photo
Posted March 15, 2013, at 5:14 p.m.

DEER ISLE, Maine — The state is planning four months of repair work at the 74-year-old Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge this summer, but motorists can breath easy as the traffic impact is expected to be minimal.

Project Manager Steve Bodge, of Maine Department of Transportation, said drivers shouldn’t expect a trip to or from the island to take much longer than usual

“We’re going to have it down to one lane, and keep work to daylight hours only,” he said Friday. “We found over the years that it’s safer to put flaggers on both ends of the bridge, which prevents queueing on the bridge.”

The $1.1 million rehabilitation work will include replacing cracked steel, support cables, worn bolts and safety ropes used by workers who scale the bridge’s towers.

But the biggest project, Bodge said, will be replacement of rocker bearings under the bridge, which allow the bridge to flex and move in the wind, as it’s designed to do.

“That work involves lifting the bridge, just a couple inches, taking the pressure off those bearings and resetting them,” Bodge said.

The state is preparing to send out a request for proposals in April, said MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot.

The job is a continuation of rehabilitation work that began with an in-depth inspection in 2011, Bodge said. Since then, the DOT has applied new layers of protective paint to the bridge and replaced some worn and cracked steel. The state also has done some major substructure rehab, which included an overhaul of the two deep-water piers that support the road deck.

The Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge, built in 1939, is one of two remaining suspension bridges in the state, Bodge said. The other is the Old Wire Bridge in North New Portland.

A third suspension bridge, the Waldo-Hancock Bridge, which spanned the Penobscot River between Verona Island and Prospect, was replaced in 2006 after it was deemed irreparable. Bodge said the state hopes to escape a similar fate for the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge.

“We’re committed to maintaining this bridge,” he said. “We’re not headed down the same path as we were with the Waldo-Hancock. We’re well out in front of any issues that may arise, and we inspect on a two-year cycle — and it’s an in-depth inspection.”

Funding for the bridge rehabilitation is an 80-20 split, with federal funding covering 80 percent of the costs and the state picking up the rest.

A public hearing on this summer’s work was held recently in Deer Isle, Bodge said, with residents mostly concerned about traffic impacts. He said fears were assuaged by the end of the meeting.

“This shouldn’t add any minutes to people’s drive-time,” he said.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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