The Saco City Council on Monday voted to allocate money to restore the Stackpole Bridge, ending several years of uncertainty about the future of the historic structure.

The council voted 5-2 to move to the Stackpole Bridge project $245,000 previously set aside for work on Pleasant Street Extension, as well as more than $31,000 left over from an appraisal conversion. Those funds – combined with $990,000 approved by voters in 2014 – will give the city enough money to cover the estimated $1.3 million cost of restoring the 167-year-old bridge.

Councilors David Precourt and Alan Minthorn voted against the plan.

City officials have debated for years how to handle the bridge, which is closed to traffic until it is fixed or replaced. Neighbors of the bridge on Simpson Road have pushed for a full restoration instead of alternative plans to replace the bridge. The Friends of Stackpole Bridge, a group that has advocated for restoring the bridge, has raised $28,000 for the project.

“It’s nice to have a conclusion and finally move forward with opening the road back up,” said City Administrator Kevin Sutherland.

The 1848 dry-laid stone bridge – believed to be one of the oldest stone bridges on a public road in Maine – carries Simpson Road across Stackpole Creek, which empties into the Saco River near the Dayton border. 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.

The fate of the bridge has been discussed by city officials since 2002, when a Maine Department of Transportation report said it should be monitored for maintenance and repair. The bridge has been closed to traffic for nearly two years.

The rural Saco neighborhood, dotted with 200-year-old farmhouses, has rallied around the bridge, which was restricted to one lane for a decade before it was closed to all traffic. Since the bridge was closed, Saco residents on the Buxton side of the bridge have been essentially cut off from the rest of Saco. The detour adds about 13 miles for residents who travel to and from downtown.

In 2014, voters approved a $990,000 bond to pay for improvements to the bridge and allow it to reopen to traffic. Voters in 2013 rejected a plan to borrow $1.7 million to fix the bridge.

Work is expected to begin next summer.


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