The Winthrop Street overpass that connects rural Hallowell to the city’s downtown district will close Tuesday morning for much-needed repairs to the span, which crosses the Maine Turnpike.

The Maine Turnpike Authority, which is overseeing the project, said the work will be completed in about 55 days using a strategy called Accelerated Bridge Construction. The tentative plan is for the bridge to reopen Oct. 30.

“The ABC process, promoted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, uses innovative planning, design, modern materials and new construction methods to reduce the onsite construction time, dramatically minimizing the impact and inconvenience to local travelers,” spokeswoman Erin Courtney said in a news release.

The project includes concrete deck and steel girder replacement, concrete substructure modifications and repairs, approach work and paving, work on the guardrail and bridge rails, and maintenance of traffic.

Since the bridge opened in 1955, millions of vehicles have used it to cross the turnpike. The effects of wear and tear have become more apparent in recent years, Courtney said, and the turnpike authority already addressed several small sections of deteriorating concrete to prevent debris from falling onto vehicles passing underneath. The new overpass will have an increased vertical clearance of 15.5 feet and an increased width of 28 feet.

The bridge has an average annual daily traffic of 6,000 vehicles. The project typically would take about 155 days without the accelerated schedule.

“The $2.3 million cost for the project represents an investment in creating a wider, taller, stronger and safer bridge over the Maine Turnpike for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians,” said Peter Mills, MTA’s Executive Director. “We are deeply committed to our accelerated plan to accomplish the replacement in less than two months.”

City Manager Nate Rudy said Winthrop Street residents were alerted to the upcoming closure and detours by letters, roadside electronic message boards, newspaper and digital ads, social media alerts, and public relations are being used to notify the public.

“There are some people resistant to change, even if it’s temporary,” Rudy said. “We’ve had a few people express concern, but it’ll be over before they can even remember it.”

The official detour to and from Winthrop Street, both west and east of the turnpike, re-routes drivers along Whitten Road, Western Avenue, Armory Street, Capitol Street, State Street and Water Street. It is a 6-mile route, and the Turnpike Authority is urging drivers to plan for additional travel time.

This bridge is yet another improvement to Hallowell infrastructure. In April, city voters passed a bond package that included more than $500,000 for roadwork on rural Hallowell roads and within the Stevens Commons campus; and early next year, the Maine Department of Transportation will begin a multimillion-dollar reconstruction of a busy downtown stretch of Water Street.

Rudy said work on Town Farm Road was completed last week in anticipation of increased traffic while the bridge is closed.

“We don’t want a lot of traffic going through town like that, because it would be dangerous,” Rudy said. “But that’s my commute.”

James Watson said he often drives over the bridge when coming from his girlfriend’s house in north Augusta to Hallowell to eat at one of Water Street’s restaurants. He said it’ll be a minor inconvenience, but it was work that had to happen.

“You can tell that the bridge is in need of repairs, and the longer you hold off, the more expensive and time-consuming these types of projects become,” he said. “I’m happy to go a bit out of my way so that the Turnpike Authority can get that bridge into shape and then move on to another important project.”

Courtney said the Federal Highway Administration estimates about 150,000 bridges in the U.S. are in need of rehabilitation, repair or total replacement.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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