BATH — Reconstruction of the deteriorating viaduct that carries Route 1 over part of downtown Bath to the Sagadahoc Bridge is scheduled to take place in 2016, but the appearance of the elevated roadway won’t change much. Plans call for the new structure to be a virtual copy of the original.
The Maine Department of Transportation has been planning the project for years and announced during a public meeting last week that funding has been secured for a complete reconstruction.
The project will cost about $14 million, and includes replacing the entire superstructure. The viaduct will be closed to traffic for about four months, but the DOT plans to do the work during winter to minimize the impact on summer traffic. Traffic will be rerouted to streets beneath the viaduct while it is closed.
“It’s going to happen,” said Joel Kittredge of Maine DOT. “It’s funded, and we’ve started contracts for design.”
The 50-year-old structure has exposed rebar and worn surfaces. FIGG Engineering Group, the company that designed the Sagadahoc Bridge, will design the new viaduct.
The replacement will nearly mirror the original, aside from some aesthetic changes and the use of new construction techniques, according to Brice Urquhart, FIGG’s regional director.
The plan is to replace the superstructure, which forms the roadbed, and repair the existing pylons. The new viaduct will carry two lanes of traffic, rather than being expanded to four, as some have called for.
Keeping the viaduct at two lanes will keep costs down, and traffic projections for the next 20 years suggest additional lanes won’t be needed, according to traffic engineer Ed Hanscom.
“It serves the need,” he said. “And it’s a good fit for what’s around it.”
Nearby residents Jeff and Ellen Parker, who live just north of the viaduct, said they were glad the viaduct won’t be expanded.
“It’s a lot better. I thought they were going to put in two and two, which would be horrible,” said Ellen Parker. “But it will make for a very interesting sight. We’ll be able to see all of it going on from our kitchen window. My husband says I should set up coffee and donuts for the guys.”
But Dick Hill, another Bath resident, said he didn’t see the point in keeping the road at two lanes.
“We have four lanes on one side and four lanes on the other side; that doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
One of the main concerns during construction will be rerouting traffic to keep Route 1 flowing, Hanscom said. The last time the viaduct was closed, in 2007, traffic was rerouted under the viaduct.
“Back in 2007, the key was really, if we take the Route 1 traffic off the viaduct, we have to get it across Washington Street,” said Hanscom.
The plan is to simplify the traffic light sequences at intersections between Washington Street and Route 1, he said
To ensure construction is completed as quickly as possible, construction crews will work day and night shifts, Urquhart said, and the contractor chosen for the work will be penalized if the project exceeds its deadline.
According to Kittredge, any structures that are currently on the bridge – such as memorial materials, lights, and so on – will be replaced.
The exact design of the bridge hasn’t been decided. According to Urquhart, FIGG has narrowed the choices to two and will likely make a final decision in the coming months.
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