PORTLAND — A majority of Riverside Street business owners said tonight they support the option for replacing the Exit 48 bridge over the Maine Turnpike that would keep the old bridge open during construction, but which would also cost the most money.

Several business owners, who spoke at a public meeting, said the two remaining options which would result in complete or partial closures of the bridge would devastate their businesses. Those businesses rely on drive-by traffic from the Exit 48 toll plaza which sees about 18,000 vehicles a day pass through.

By keeping the bridge open, owners say they should be able to get by for the 12 months it would take to complete the $8.5 million project. That proposal calls for construction of a new bridge just to the north of the existing structure. The option that would lead to the closure of the lanes serving northbound traffic would cost $7.5 million and take just nine months to complete.

A third option would cost $8 million, take 14 to 18 months to finish, but would keep the bridge open to northbound off ramp traffic. Northbound on ramp traffic would be closed.

Officials for the Maine Turnpike Authority say they expect to make a final decision in July with construction work scheduled to begin sometime early next year.

Comments can still be made by emailing Bruce Pelletier at [email protected]