The Maine Department of Transportation and Cianbro are preparing to open the new drawbridge in South Bristol to both vehicles and boat traffic prior to the end of the month.
Catherine Mettey, the Maine Department of Transportation’s resident engineer for the project, said the tentative plan is to open the new bridge to vehicular traffic Friday, May 20.
“That is our hope,” Mettey said. “It looks pretty likely, but we’ll see how the next few days go.”
Cianbro, of Pittsfield, is building the bridge after securing the contract with a $10,995,622 bid.
Construction began in September 2014, paused in June 2015 for regulatory reasons, and resumed in September 2015.
The channel officially closed to boat traffic Oct. 21. The 82-year-old swing bridge opened one last time Oct. 30. Residents looked on as the bridge got stuck twice.
When the new bridge is open, traffic will remain limited to one lane as crews continue construction and install the mechanics of the bascule bridge. A bascule bridge is a type of drawbridge counterweighted so it can be raised and lowered easily.
Once traffic switches to the new bridge, crews will dismantle the temporary bridge. Mettey said the channel is scheduled to reopen to marine traffic Wednesday, May 25, three days earlier than the originally scheduled date.
Starting May 26, the channel will be closed for six hours twice a day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Mettey said the U.S. Coast Guard approved the channel closure schedule to allow for the safe removal of the temporary bridge. The closures will continue into June and possibly longer.
Crews erected the new, two-story control house last week. The new building includes a kitchen and indoor plumbing, amenities the previous control house did not have, Mettey said.
The new control house, when complete, will resemble neighboring structures, Mettey said.
“It will keep the character of the surrounding buildings, definitely,” Mettey said.
The crews are at a point in the project where they no longer have to work around the tidal schedule, a challenge presented early in the project.
“Working around the tides was difficult, but now we’re out of the water and progress is easier and faster,” Mettey said.
Mettey said the mild winter also contributed to the rate of progress.
“We were very fortunate and got lucky this year,” Mettey said. “We did have a couple snowstorms, but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as last year. That would have really been a challenge.”
Crews will still need to test the mechanics of the bridge and complete some additional loose ends, such as improving drainage and the roadway leading up to the bridge, before the project is complete, Mettey said.
The contract completion date is set for Nov. 15; however, Mettey said crews are currently running on schedule for completion by early August.
Mettey asks for patience as the project moves toward completion.
“As it gets busier and there’s more traffic, we ask that people drive the speed limits and not run any red lights,” Mettey said. “We just want everyone to stay safe.”
For more information on the bridge construction or to stay up to date on the project’s progress, go to maine.gov/mdot/gutbridge/.