BIDDEFORD — For those working or living in the mill districts of Biddeford and Saco, traveling by foot between the two cities will become much easier next year.

A pedestrian bridge crossing the Saco River and connecting the cities’ mill districts to one another is scheduled to be constructed in the spring of 2014. It will replace an old, metal bridge crossing the river, which is not in use.

Most of the estimated $426,000 cost of construction, about 80 percent, will come from the Maine Department of Transportation. The remaining 20 percent will come from the two cities, approximately $44,000 from each.

Both cities plan to tap funds from their respective Tax Increment Financing districts. One of the intentions of these funds is for infrastructure improvements.

Both Biddeford City Planner Greg Tansley and Saco City Planner Bob Hamblen say although the project has been delayed ”“ the bridge was originally to be funded and constructed this year ”“ they are happy the project is finally on the DOT work plan schedule for 2014-15.

The metal bridge will be 170 feet long and eight feet wide, said Tansley, and will be a “significant amenity” that will connect between each city’s riverwalks that border the Saco River.

The bridge will “facilitate further mill district development by improving access” between the cities, said Tansley.

For those in Biddeford, it will also provide easier pedestrian access to the Saco Transportation Center and access to the Amtrak passenger train.

“I think any successful downtown includes a number of reasons why visitors want to come,” said Hamblen. “Something as striking as this pedestrian bridge is going to be reason enough.”

At least one downtown resident said he’s pleased that the bridge will be built.

“The downtown area of Biddeford/Saco is already relatively welcoming to pedestrian traffic; the bridge can only enhance this,” wrote Paul Culloton, in an email Monday. Culloton resides in Island Terrace, a condominium development in the Saco mill district.

“The bridge will welcome more pedestrian traffic to the downtown area,” he said, “and when people are walking, as opposed to driving, they are more apt to stop and enjoy the local businesses that contribute to the economic vitality of a thriving urban center.”

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 324 or [email protected].

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