A runner and car cross the bridge that carries Stillwater Avenue over the Stillwater River in Old Town, Sept. 23, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

A multi-year project to replace a bridge that carries a major Old Town artery over the Stillwater River, as well as make other improvements on a crash-prone stretch of road, could start as soon as February now that the Maine Department of Transportation has purchased two properties that are in the way.

The department plans to replace the bridge that carries Stillwater Avenue over the Stillwater River through a series of projects that will likely last three to four years and cost about $20 million, according to department spokesperson Paul Merrill.

The work also involves new pavement and the reconstruction of sidewalks on a road that saw 84 crashes between 2016 and 2018.

The project is set to go out to bid in December.

The bridge was originally built in 1952 and is in poor condition, according to a Department of Transportation presentation given to the city of Old Town in 2019.

The early work includes paving on Stillwater Avenue, College Avenue and Bennoch Road, plus the reconstruction of sidewalks within the project zone, Merrill said. Prep work is slated to begin in February.

Additionally, the traffic signals at College Avenue and Bennoch Road will be replaced, he said.

A pedestrian was killed in 2019 at the Bennoch Road and Stillwater Avenue intersection after he was struck by a truck with a plow attached to the front of it.

The bridge replacement will result in a wider span with a sidewalk, Merrill said.

The road work also involves adding a second left hand turn lane on College Avenue at its intersection with Stillwater Avenue so cars can more easily turn onto Stillwater in the direction of I-95.

As part of the project, the Department of Transportation identified three properties that were in the way of the work. The department has purchased two of the buildings, and they will later be demolished. The third property owner agreed to move the building that is in the way to a different part of the property, according to Merrill.

During the construction, construction crews will set up a temporary detour located upriver, Merrill said.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...