The town of Alna will receive $570,000 in federal funds to replace a bridge on Egypt Road, the select board announced during a meeting at the town office on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
The funds will be used to replace the bridge on Egypt Road that runs over Ben Brook in Alna. The financial assistance comes from the $1.7 trillion spending bill signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29, 2022. The omnibus spending bill will fund the federal government though the remaining fiscal year set to end on Sept. 30, 2023.
Alna Select Board Chair Ed Pentaleri credited the offices of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King Jr., as well as U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree for working with the town to have the funding appropriated in the spending package.
“I would like to thank their staff members. They are absolutely remarkable people,” Pentaleri said.
Pentaleri also acknowledged Alna resident Paul Crandall for suggesting the board seek help from Maine’s representatives.
“Truth be told, it wasn’t something I initially thought was likely to go anywhere,” Pentaleri said. “But anyone that knows me knows I am a strong believer in asking for what you want because when you ask for what you want the odds of getting significantly go up.”
The funds are expected to be available in the next six to eight weeks according to Pentaleri.
Shortly after announcing the federal funds, the board approved spending up to $25,000 in state grant money to Calderwood Engineering out of Richmond to proceed with survey and geotechnical work for the replacement of the Egypt Road bridge. The survey is necessary to finalize the project plan and determine its full cost, according to Pentaleri.
During the meeting Pentaleri said efforts made by Midcoast Conservancy helped the town receive two separate grants worth a combined total of $200,000 to help pay for the Egypt Road bridge replacement project.
Last March the town was awarded a $125,000 stream crossing grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The town also received a $75,000 grant from the national fish passage program awarded by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, though Pentaleri was not sure when the grant was awarded to the town. In total, the town has received $770,000 to replace the Egypt Road bridge. Pentaleri thinks the cost for replacing the bridge could reach $1 million, and believes there are other grants the town can apply for to cover the remaining cost.
Originally built in 1955, the bridge qualified for the grants due to its obsolete design and the opportunity to restore access to the river for sea-run fish, according to Pentaleri.
“It is basically an 11-foot diameter culvert that is perched in such a way that it blocks sea-run fish and other wildlife from access to right around 8 miles of above stream habitat,” Pentaleri said.
To comply with the requirements for the grants, the project must build the bridge and adjust the grade of the brook so fish are not prevented from swimming upstream, Pentaleri said during a phone interview on Monday, Jan. 16.
In April 2021, the town was alerted about the potential danger the bridge poses in a “bad bridge letter” sent by the Maine Department of Transportation, according to an article by The Lincoln County News published on July 29, 2021. The letter stated that stones were shifting away from the roadway and if they collapsed into the brook it could lead to serious washout of the road.
During the meeting Pentaleri said fellow select board member Linda Kristan received the letter and began investigating the issue. In September 2021, the board hired Calderwood Engineering to perform an engineering assessment and recommend technical alternatives.
Pentaleri said Calderwood inspected the bridge in Nov. 2021 and reported the bridge was not in imminent risk of collapse and was safe to drive on. In their report they offer various solutions including doing nothing, offering a temporary solution, or completely replacing the bridge. The report said repairing the bridge would last 10 years and replacing the bridge would last 75 years.
The board is looking toward replacing the bridge entirely rather than just provide repairs.
The next select board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at the town office.