NORTH HAVEN, Maine — A nearly 60-year-old bridge on this Penobscot Bay island is in need of major repairs or replacement but there is disagreement on the design of the new or revised structure.
The Maine Department of Transportation attended a meeting Thursday on the island to present details of the proposed replacement of the Pulpit Harbor Bridge. Following the meeting, Project Manager Andrew Lathe said Monday he expects that the advertising for bids will be postponed due to the feedback from the public.
Lathe said he expects to meet with municipal officials during the next few weeks to go over concerns raised at the meeting by some citizens. North Haven Town Administrator Joseph Stone said Tuesday selectmen have not had time to discuss the matter since the plan was unveiled last week but that he expects it will be a topic at their next meeting.
But the executive director of the North Haven Conservation Partners said Wednesday that the proposed design is simply too much for the island. He said the design was too heavy-handed, too tall and the amount of riprap was excessive.
“Pulpit Harbor is one of the most well-known harbors in this part of Maine,” he said and that the proposed new bridge would detract from that.
Nichols said he knows the transportation department can do a better job and questioned whether a replacement is needed instead of repairs.
This is the second time that the state has had to step back on its proposal form the bridge which spans the Mill Stream along the North Shore Road. In 2014, Lathe said the department proposed a single-lane bridge option that would have used the existing abutments and most of the in-water piers.
He said residents voiced concerns, however, about going from the existing two-lane bridge to a single-lane because the North Shore Road is the shortest route to the town transfer station, the most immediate access for boaters moored in Pulpit Harbor, and the road sees increased traffic during the summer months.
The average daily traffic count is 630 over the bridge, according to the transportation department.
The first bridge over the stream was built in 1883. The current bridge was rebuilt in 1956, creating a 130-foot long bridge with two travel lanes that are each 11 feet wide. Due to the light steel beams used in 1956 for the bridge widening, the current bridge has a 12-ton limit, he said.
The estimated cost of the project is currently at $2,055,000. This includes preliminary engineering costs, right of way, construction and construction engineering.
The plan called for constructing the bridge from January through May. One of the reasons for the winter construction is environmental because Atlantic salmon are believed to swim up the stream during the other months. In addition, winter construction will have less of an impact on the boating community and the increased traffic the island sees during the summer, he said.
The detour during construction will add up to six miles for travelers.