BATH – Traffic in downtown Bath appeared to run smoothly on Tuesday, the first day of a planned seven-month closure of the busy Route 1 viaduct for reconstruction.

The most disruptive work, though, is still weeks away.

Vehicles were moving freely and without major stoppage in either direction, even during the afternoon period when many Bath Iron Works employees go home for the day.

The Maine Department of Transportation made the decision to close the viaduct, which is suspended about 30 feet over the downtown, while the span is torn down and rebuilt. The project is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2017.

Vine Street, the street directly underneath the viaduct, connects to Route 1 on each end and is two lanes wide in both directions. Instead of vehicles traveling on the viaduct, they simply passed underneath it.

Aside from the viaduct closures, transportation officials also banned left turns from Vine Street onto Washington Avenue, adjacent to BIW, to keep traffic flowing.

Spokesman Ted Talbot said local police assisted with traffic flow.

Bath police Sgt. Mike Lathrop said the first day of the closure went smoothly. He said officers will patrol the area closely during afternoon shift change at BIW as well as during the early morning hours when shipyard workers arrive. He said there is some concern that motorists may try to find shortcuts through downtown neighborhoods and officers will monitor that.

Area businesses downtown said they hadn’t noticed any issues at all on Tuesday, despite some fears that the closure would snarl traffic. Talbot said late Tuesday that there had not been any complaints, but warned that “the real noise hasn’t yet started.”

Lathrop agreed that his department likely will start hearing more complaints once the demolition – much of it to be done by jackhammer – commences.

“Anyone that lives in a quarter-mile radius is going to hear it,” the sergeant said. “If you look up at (the viaduct), you see it clearly needs to be replaced, but any big project like this is going to be a disruption. We hope people are patient.”

The viaduct handles roughly 18,000 vehicles a day and is a major connector to all midcoast towns north and east of Bath.

Since 1958, the viaduct on Route 1 has carried traffic over parts of the city’s downtown and the nearby BIW shipyard. The replacement of the viaduct, at an estimated cost of $15 million, will be done around the clock, seven days a week, according to the transportation department.

A contractor first will demolish the two-lane highway bridge, the superstructure and the piers that support it. Then, the viaduct will be rebuilt in place with a similar appearance to its current look, with the highest point being about 30 feet above Leeman Highway and Commercial Street, the two streets that run underneath it. The viaduct is a quarter-mile long and runs from High Street to the Sagadahoc Bridge over the Kennebec River.

The Maine Department of Transportation said the finished viaduct will have improved sidewalks, crosswalks, signage, lighting and guardrails; a design less conducive to pigeons roosting under the viaduct; and drainage improvements, with separation of storm water runoff from the city sewer system.