Current developments surrounding the fate of Saco’s Stackpole Bridge require additional context (“Saco moves toward replacing historic stone bridge with concrete span,” March 5).

Rehabilitation of the 165-year-old bridge, Maine’s oldest stone bridge on a public roadway, is still a viable alternative under the low-interest loan program recently offered to the city by the Maine Department of Transportation.

The loan terms do not stipulate replacement or rehabilitation, but limit the offer to $650,000 maximum or half of the project cost, whichever is less.

Saco’s City Council has shown flexibility and foresight in its desire to accept the loan in some form while continuing to accept rehabilitation as a possible solution. A public hearing on the entire $990,000 bond project is scheduled for April 7. A referendum vote will follow in early June.

The Friends of Stackpole Bridge, an advocacy group formed in 2007, has continued to tap the expertise of preservation engineers in Maine and New England, including the firm Structures North, which was hired by the city in 2012 to design a proposal for the historic bridge that would allow two-way traffic and maximum weight loads.

Engineers met last week to review data that presents a clearer picture of the bridge’s internal composition, which in turn allows for more precise calculations and potential cost savings.

Additionally, the Friends group has developed an aggressive private fundraising plan for rehabilitation of the bridge.

This effort of facilitating a lower price, coupled with securing grant donations, ensures a comparative price to a modular concrete bridge. Saco citizens can be confident that an economical and logical approach to saving Stackpole Bridge exists.

Preservation of the bridge, as an extremely rare 19th-century masonry structure, “merits the utmost consideration,” as stated in a recent letter from Maine Historic Preservation to Saco’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The loss of Portland’s grand Union Station in 1961 reminds us that the demolition of unique historic structures has far-reaching and final consequences. Now is the time for the people of Saco, along with Mainers far and wide, to act most vigilant in preventing a similarly tragic outcome for Stackpole Bridge.

Inga Sandvoss Browne and Susan Littlefield
members, Friends of Stackpole Bridge
Saco