A frozen Kennebec River delayed construction of the new Richmond-Dresden bridge for more than a month this past winter, but the bridge is still expected to open before the end of the year.

The 1,500-foot-long bridge will replace the deteriorating, nearly 80-year-old Route 197 swing bridge that connects the two towns.

Crews from the construction company Reed & Reed have completed the steel structural beams across more than half of the river from Richmond to Dresden, according to Charlie Guerette, project manager for the Woolwich-based contractor. After the structural beams are finished in about three weeks, workers will begin forming and placing the six concrete deck sections for the bridge, he said.

The curbs, guardrails and other details will be completed before it opens, planned for the first week of December, Guerette said.

He said the new bridge will be high so boats can pass underneath it, unlike the current bridge, which swings open to allow taller boats to pass. The peak of the bridge’s deck will be 80 feet above the river with a slope of 6 degrees.

“It will be steep going up and down,” Guerette said.

The contractor won the job with a $14.3 million bid and started working in July of last year. The frozen river during the winter prevented work from being done on mid-river bridge piers starting near the end of December.

“The river froze earlier than normal and stayed frozen later than normal, caused us about a six week delay,” Guerette said.

Crews will begin taking down the old bridge after the new one opens. If the river doesn’t freeze too early, the construction company will have the old bridge removed by the end of the year, Guerette said. Otherwise, crews will finish in the spring, he said.

There have only been occasional traffic delays because of the work, but Guerette thanked the public for being patient with the work.

Federal money is covering 80 percent of the estimated $18.6 project, and the Maine Department of Transportation is funding the other 20 percent.

An average of 2,720 vehicles cross the bridge each day, according to the department.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig