February 26, 2010

Public gets say in final bridge design

BETH QUIMBY

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Residents will have some say about the sidewalks, landscaping and architectural details of the $63 million bridge that will replace Veterans Memorial Bridge between Portland and South Portland.

The Maine Department of Transportation unveiled its preliminary design for the new four-lane bridge Thursday morning at Mercy Hospital's Fore River campus. Officials said they will meet with the public to solicit ideas for the final design.

The new bridge will be slightly higher than the span that was built in 1954 and will include 12-foot-wide bike and pedestrian paths and memorials to the five branches of the military.

On the Portland end, the four-way intersection of Route 1, Commercial Street, Valley Street and the Fore River Parkway will be redesigned as part of the project.

Construction is expected to begin this spring. The new bridge is scheduled to open in July 2012.

The old bridge will be removed once the new one is complete. The adjacent railroad bridge will remain.

Transportation Commissioner David Cole said the new bridge, part of Route 1, is intended to be a ''100-year asset'' for the Portland area. ''It's about more than vehicle traffic,'' he said.

The project could generate up to 1,700 jobs among the suppliers and subcontractors, according to the Federal Highway Administration, which says 27 jobs are created for every $1 million of highway construction.

Reed & Reed Inc. of Woolwich, the bridge contractor, will hold a job fair for construction workers, said Jackson Parker, president and chief executive officer.

''The jobs will be construction jobs, laborers and carpenters,'' said Parker, who started out as a laborer at Reed & Reed while he was in college.

Reed & Reed's previous bridge projects in Maine include the Brunswick-Topsham Bypass and the Hancock-Sullivan Bridge in Down East Maine. Its team includes T.Y. Lin International of Falmouth, which designed the Casco Bay Bridge.

Reed & Reed was one of three bidders for the bridge construction contract. Others were Lane Construction Corp. of Cheshire, Conn., with a $68.4 million bid; and Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, with a $69.6 million bid.

Officials said the project's effect on the 22,000 drivers who use the 2,150-foot-long Veterans Memorial Bridge daily should be minimal because it will stay open while its replacement is built.

The Department of Transportation does not yet have environmental permits for the project, which engineers said poses challenges because of the nearby Portland International Jetport, the railroad bridge, poor soil and other factors.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

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