PORTLAND — Despite earlier suggestions that it would be closed, the Maine Department of Transportation revealed July 13 that it will keep two lanes of traffic open while the Martins Point Bridge is being replaced.

The existing bridge, which connects Veranda Street in Portland with Route 1 in Falmouth where the Presumpscot River empties into Casco Bay, will remain open while a new bridge is built either upstream or downstream. Construction is expected to begin in the summer or fall 2012, depending on the plans presented by the winning bidder.

The cost of the project is expected to be between $30 million and 35 million.

At the first public meeting on the issue, held in February 2010, MDOT heard a variety of concerns about its initial plan to close the bridge for three years. The concerns included the economic impact on businesses along Route 1 in Falmouth and rerouting of the annual Maine Marathon.

After that, MDOT arranged an advisory committee, made up of neighbors, citizen groups, and city and town officials, to work with the department to alleviate concerns about the impact of construction and the design of the new bridge.

At the July 13 meeting, the committee presented some of its work to an audience of approximately 40 people, including several possible construction bidders.

“This is a 100-year investment,” said Patrick Costin, who represented the Portland Society of Architects on the advisory committee. “The way the bridge is used may evolve.”

The committee members emphasized the multi-modal aspects they would like to see in the new design. The group has requested that a walking/biking path be included that would separate pedestrians and bikers from vehicle traffic, although there is no guarantee that request will be granted.

“DOT said the bridge could not be wider than it is now,” said advisory committee organizer Sally Oldham. “We wanted a multi-use path separate from the bridge, but DOT said we couldn’t require that (in the request for proposals).”

The group has also asked for minimal lighting, to reduce impact on the nighttime view of the bay and the neighbors.

Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore, who attended the meeting, said the town was planning to extend sidewalks along Route 1 from where they now end, at Route 88, all the way to the bridge, in the next few years.

MDOT planned to issue its request for qualifications, the first step in the construction process, this week. The new bridge is expected to be completed in fall 2014.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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