PORTLAND — Drivers should expect delays around the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Wednesday, when one of the two southbound lanes will be closed for much of the day.

The lane will be closed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for work on the foundation for one of the piers that will support the bridge that will replace the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Periodic closures are planned over the next four months.

“We don’t foresee huge backups,” said Jeraldine Herrera, an associate with Barton & Gingold, the Portland firm that is handling the project’s public relations for the Maine Department of Transportation. While one of the southbound lanes will remain open, she said, drivers may want to take other routes as a precaution.

The crew is committed to reopening the lane in time for heavy commuter traffic out of Portland, said Charlie Guerette, project manager for Woolwich-based Reed & Reed Inc., the contractor that was awarded the design-build contract along with T.Y. Lin International of Falmouth.

The work will not be done at night because the darkness would make the cold, slippery winter conditions more hazardous, Guerette said. “You’re a lot safer to be in that environment in the daytime.”

The Veterans Memorial Bridge carries 22,000 vehicles a day over the Fore River between Portland’s West End and South Portland’s Ligonia neighborhood. Built in 1954, the bridge is considered safe but has been on the state’s priority list for replacement for several years.

Groundbreaking for the $63 million project was held in June. Plans call for the new bridge to be completed by the summer of 2012. The old bridge should be removed by December 2012.

The new bridge is designed to last for 100 years. The project includes memorials to the military, a pedestrian-bicycle path, pavilions along the bridge and landscaping.

The piers are being built from the Portland side toward the South Portland side. Three have been built, and three more are needed before the precast segments that form the road can be erected.

On Wednesday, the construction crew will take delivery of concrete for the fourth pier. Weather permitting, the concrete will be discharged from the old bridge, swung over to a crane on a barge and then to a pump on another barge.

Guerette said the fourth pier should be finished by mid-March and the remaining piers are expected to be done in late May.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]