Saco residents will vote Nov. 4 on the latest plan to fix or replace a historic bridge that has been closed to traffic for more than a year.

The Stackpole Bridge, built in 1848, is one of the oldest stone bridges on a public roadway in Maine but is closed to vehicle traffic until it is repaired or replaced. Neighbors to the bridge call it the “gem of rural Saco” and have fought for more than a decade for its restoration.

If approved by voters, a bond question would allow the city to spend up to $990,000 for improvements to the bridge that would allow it be reopened to traffic. Traffic on the bridge has been reduced to one lane for years, but was closed altogether in May 2013 because of concerns about its stability.

The bridge, eligible for National Historic Preservation status, is remarkable for its vaulted arch, which is shaped like a giant keyhole and rises 21 feet over the creek.

Voters in 2013 rejected a plan to borrow $1.7 million to fix the bridge.

The Maine Department of Transportation offered to let Saco borrow $495,000 from a low-interest loan program to help replace the bridge. The city would use a second bond to borrow the remaining $495,000.

Friends of Stackpole Bridge, a group that has advocated for restoring the bridge, commissioned an assessment that showed the bridge could be rehabilitated for $1 million or less. A separate nonprofit, The Fund for Stackpole Bridge, was established to raise money to help pay for the bridge’s restoration beyond the amount borrowed through bonds.

– Gillian Graham

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