The engineer of Bremen’s Heath Road bridge project recommended replacing the single-lane bridge with a two-lane bridge, more than doubling the length of the bridge, and moving the bridge upstream during a public meeting Thursday, Jan. 14.
Eric Calderwood answered questions from the public and discussed how construction may affect area residents.
The project will replace the single-lane Chaney Bridge over Smelts Brook on Heath Road.
Calderwood, of Calderwood Engineering out of Richmond, said residents will still be able to cross the old bridge during the construction process.
“Traffic, until completion of the project, will be directed over the existing bridge,” Calderwood said.
Several residents inquired about the ability of emergency vehicles, specifically fire trucks and ambulances, to cross the span during construction.
Calderwood reassured the public of potential contractors’ ability to ensure access to first responders.
“They will do whatever is necessary to get emergency vehicles over,” Calderwood said.
Calderwood provided the town with four options for the new bridge, with the firm recommending a design estimated to cost $408,000.
Other options for the project included a $370,000 estimate that was not recommended due to site conditions, a $403,000 estimate that came with a higher potential for cost overruns, and a $507,000 estimate exploring the use of a galvanized steel superstructure.
The engineer said he is recommending replacing the single-lane bridge with a two-lane structure.
The existing bridge has a width of 16 feet, while the recommended bridge would be 20 feet wide.
Calderwood said he is also recommending replacing the current grate cover with pavement, adding guardrails on each end of the bridge, and moving the new bridge approximately 20 feet upstream.
The engineering firm recommends one 50-foot span for the new bridge; the existing bridge has a span of 20 feet.
Due to the positive environmental impact of the proposed bridge design, the town of Bremen has received a $95,000 grant from the state to go toward the construction of the new bridge.
Lincoln County Planner Robert Faunce said the potential to re-create a rainbow smelt fishery was an important factor that led the state to grant Bremen funding to assist in the completion of the new bridge.
“The reason the state awarded the money is partly because of the condition of the bridge and also the potential for the improvement of the fish habitat,” Faunce said.
He said water travels too quickly under the existing bridge for the species of smelt to travel upstream.
“The (Maine Department of Marine Resources) is trying to re-create the old smelt fishery. There used to be a tremendous fishery and it’s almost gone now … that is why the DMR issued a letter of support for the project,” Faunce said.
Calderwood said the new design is not only beneficial for the brook’s fish and birds, but will also prevent scouring on the joints and abatements of the bridge.
“We are cutting the velocity of the water roughly in half and returning the water to where the natural channel is,” Calderwood said.
Calderwood gave a prospective timeline for the project and said the hope is to complete the preliminary bridge designs by April, advertise for bids by May, and construct the new bridge at some point between November and March.
He said building the bridge in late fall or winter would allow for fewer residents to be impacted by the construction.
Selectman Hank Nevins said the selectmen would decide which proposed design to pursue during their next meetings.
Selectman Boe Marsh thanked Faunce for his help in securing the grant for the project.
“This guy has been so helpful to the town in a number of locations,” Marsh sad.
Marsh also said the selectmen’s decision would be based on cost-effectiveness and overall quality of the new structure.
“What is the best deal for the best bridge?” Marsh said.
Nevins said the town may be able to save money down the road by investing in a quality bridge now.
“We really want to do the bridge right. If you do the bridge right, it costs you a little more up front, but it costs less on the back end,” Nevins said.
Nevins said in order to minimize the tax impact on Bremen residents, the town would pay off the loan for work on the Hay Property and take out a new, five-year loan for the Heath Road bridge.