Saco voters to decide whether to repair or replace 1848 stone bridge

Posted June 10, 2013, at 11:28 a.m.

SACO, Maine — Residents will decide Tuesday whether a compromise solution for the Stackpole Creek Bridge will move forward.

The Stackpole Bridge, located on Simpson Road in the northern, rural section of the city, is a stone arch bridge built in 1848. City officials have debated for more than 10 years whether to restore or replace the structure.

The rate of deterioration has increased in recent years. Metal bracing was placed in 2001 and was intended to be a temporary, two-year stabilization measure.

The bridge is currently closed. CLD Consultant Engineers, after performing an April inspection, recommended it be closed until rehabilitation or replacement.

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“We have a bridge to nowhere,” said City Councilor David Tripp, who served on an ad hoc committee that has recommended the proposed $1.7 million restoration plan that will go out to vote on Tuesday. The suggested “hybrid plan” project would stabilize and restore the lower masonry of the bridge, while removing the upper portions of fill and top stone, replacing it with a concrete roadway with supportive piles, according to a report from John Wathne, president of Structures North Consulting Engineers.

According to city Finance Director Cheryl Fournier, should the city sign a 30-year bond for the proposed project, it would increase the annual mil rate by 6 cents.

A proposed replacement culvert bridge is estimated to cost $1.2 million, and a proposed wood replacement bridge, $1.4 million.

Tripp said when the ad hoc committee first met, it was very polarized. A complete restoration of the bridge, stone by stone, would have been too expensive, and he said the proposed plan is a good compromise with which everyone was in agreement.

Tripp said abutting residents have offered to give use of some of their land to make a small parking area for people who want to visit the bridge.

Simpson Road resident Doreen Metcalf said living with the bridge down to one lane, and now completely closed has been “a pain.” She said there needs to be a solution, but is opposed to the one on the ballot as she thinks it is too expensive. She said the city can find a cheaper fix, or explore other options like extending Lord Road as a new route for traffic.

Metcalf said fixing or replacing the bridge has been held off because of a few people who want to keep the bridge because they think it’s of historic value. However, she said no one can see the stone bridge from the road, and no one visits it.

Currently, it takes an extra three and a half miles to get to her farm, and she’s received complaints from people who board horses at her facility. Also, she said, this adds extra time for public safety officials to get to her home should there ever be an emergency.

State Rep. Justin Chenette, who is in favor of the proposal on the ballot, said the bridge is the oldest dry stone bridge in the state and qualifies for the National Registry of Historic Places.

“The bond will save money, save lives and save our history,” said Chenette. “If this bond is passed, work can be done to preserve this great Saco craftsmanship while maintaining modern regulatory standards.”

Chenette said the proposal will allow vehicles to travel safely and will be more cost effective, as the stone bridge will last longer than a cheaper alternative such as a concrete bridge.

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