Repairs to the causeway bridge in Naples – which the state says is in poor condition – will provide only “a short-term solution,” according to a transportation department spokesman.

The work, which will begin in December, is planned to avoid imposing bridge weight limits and delay the decision of long-term repairs or replacement. The project will extend the life of the bridge up to three years and will cost $100,000.

The Maine Department of Transportation completed an assessment of the bridge last summer and found that the beams underneath the bridge had corroded considerably. In order to maintain the current weight limits on the bridge, workers will spend about a month replacing some of the beams, according to Mark Latti, public information officer for Maine Department of Transportation.

“It’s more of a short-term solution that will avoid posting weight restrictions,” Latti said, adding that before completing a more in-depth repair or replacing the bridge, the department is waiting for an economic impact study to be conducted by the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

“For right now, these repairs will give us the time we need to complete the study and replace the bridge,” Latti said.

On Route 302, the bridge crosses the Chute River, which connects Long Lake with Brandy Pond. The current bridge, which is more than 50 years old, is a swing bridge, meaning it opens to allow boats to pass underneath.

The transportation department had originally proposed replacing the bridge with a fixed span bridge, which would have blocked the Songo River Queen and some other boats from passing underneath. Last year, the cost of a new fixed bridge was estimated at $8 million, while a new movable bridge was estimated to cost $14.5 million.

The Save the Bridge Committee formed to promote a new moveable bridge, arguing that keeping the waterway passable for all boat traffic is important to the economy, recreation and culture of the Lakes Region.

The Department of Transportation study, which was completed in September, found that $550,000 worth of work to the bridge could extend its lifespan for eight-10 years, buying some time before needing to replace the bridge. The overhaul of the bridge would not require the department to build a second bridge for diverted traffic, as closures could happen at night. The emergency repairs are much less extensive than the repairs laid out in the study.

Representatives of the Save the Bridge Committee spoke in favor of the proposed $550,000 repairs at the Nov. 17 selectmen’s meeting in Naples.

“It is an easily fixed bridge, and it’s not a patch job,” said Alan Lapidus, president of the committee. Lapidus also suggested that the Board of Selectmen re-examine the schedule of openings for the bridge.

In May, Naples residents voted in favor of a swing bridge, rather than a fixed bridge, in a non-binding referendum. In part, this vote led transportation department officials to re-evaluate the question of what to do about replacing or fixing the bridge.

The causeway bridge in Naples will get some minimal repairs in December to avoid posting it with weight limits.


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