March 11, 2010

So, you want some say on next Veterans Bridge? Well, here’s your chance

ANN S

A series of meetings beginning today will let the public weigh in on details of the $63 million span that will replace the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

FOR MORE about this project, go to www.maine.gov/mdot/vmb/index.htm
 

The preliminary design was released last month. Input is being sought on the remaining details, including memorials to the military, landscaping around the approaches, the pedestrian-bicycle path and elements such as railings. The first meeting will be held in the South Portland City Council Chambers from 5 to 8 p.m. today.

Organizers plan to review the work done so far and distribute pictures of the bridge plan and options for elements such as lighting and concrete treatments to get the conversation under way, said Karen Gola, who will facilitate the meetings for T.Y. Lin International of Falmouth, the design firm on the project.

If there is time, the discussion of aesthetic treatments may begin.

The other meetings are scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. March 23 and 24. The locations have not yet been determined.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, built in 1954, will be removed after the new one is finished. The timeline calls for the new bridge to open in July 2012.

The new four-lane bridge will have five "pavilions" -- portions where the concrete swings out in small arcs. Those areas will have concrete finishes that can come in various colors or stamped patterns. Benches, lighting fixtures and memorials will also be considered.

The concrete forming the bridge will be subject to architectural treatments that create patterns and textures, said Jeff Folsom, the Maine Department of Transportation's resident engineer on the project. The rendering shows stars at the top of the piers, but that is just a suggestion, he said.

"Sometimes they can simulate packed granite, like a granite block. Sometimes they're like a fluted concrete finish, a different texture than smooth formed concrete," Folsom said.

Although the meetings are meant to deal with details of the bridge, some groups hope to influence the larger design. The organizations were on a committee that provided input before the contract was awarded to T.Y. Lin and Reed & Reed Inc. of Woolwich, the contractor.

Norm Nelson, a member of the Greater Portland Landmarks board of trustees, is disappointed that the design didn't take a more imaginative approach.

"It's just an extension of (Interstate) 295. It's an off-ramp," said Nelson, who was on the committee.

Hilary Bassett, the organization's executive director, said beautiful design can be accomplished with the same resources. "We're not trying to put an add-on here," she said.

Christine Cantwell, who represented the Portland Society of Architects, said the critical site represents a high-stakes opportunity for Portland.

"We feel this is a gateway to the city and we feel it has the opportunity to have a sculptural presence," she said.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

 

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