The Maine Department of Transportation has landed on a final alignment for a new Interstate 295 bridge over Veranda Street, near Martin’s Point in Portland. The bridge is expected to be in place by spring 2021. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The Maine Department of Transportation is in a race against time to replace the Veranda Street overpass on Interstate 295 before the structure deteriorates further.

“It is almost 60 years old. It is getting to the end of its useful life. It is structurally deficient,” said Paul Merrill, public information officer at the Maine Department of Transportation. “That doesn’t mean it is going to fall down. Every bridge that is open is safe for use. But structurally deficient means we need to pay attention to it and pay attention to it means replacing it.”

A 2017 inspection of the bridge, which was built in 1961, “determined it’s in satisfactory to poor condition and is structurally deficient,” according to the MDOT. The $12.5 million project also includes a realignment of where Veranda Street flows into the northbound and southbound on-ramps to Interstate 295 and other improvements between Olympia Street and Martin’s Point.

As part of the bridge replacement project, a section of Veranda Street is being realigned to improve safety getting to and from the interstate. Courtesy photos

The realignment is intended to make getting to and from the highway easier and safer.

According to the department, “the interstate ramps, and the confusing nature of the roadway network have led to an increased number of motor vehicle crashes”  on Veranda Street, which is a divided roadway from Wordsworth Street and Oregon Street. Approximately 51,000 vehicles travel over the bridge daily, with Veranda Street, considered to be a major collector, seeing close to 14,000 vehicles a day.

As part of that effort, a speed radar sign will be placed just to the south of Martin’s Point Bridge and signalized crosswalk beacons would be installed by Olympia Street and Oregon Street. Sidewalks will be improved and a dedicated bicycle lane will be painted on the roadway from the Veranda Street Bridge to Martin’s Point Bridge.

Andrew Chapman, who uses the road daily to get to and from his Berwick Street home, said while it will be an improvement, it will also mean a major adaption on the part of commuters. He said the new pattern will make it safer for pedestrian and bicyclists and for major events, such as the Maine Marathon, that pass through the area.

The new alignment will mean street parking on the north side of Veranda Street between Olympia and Oregon streets will be removed and replaced by parking on the south side of the street next to new green space that is being added by the water.

This gives Veranda Street resident Rebecca Hynd cause for concern.

“If people are going to be using that parking (by the new green space) and then have to cross two lanes of traffic to get here, that doesn’t make sense,” Hynd said.

The parking is being removed to improve sightlines for vehicles coming out of the side streets, but Hynd said sightlines have never been an issue for her.

Wayne Frankhauser, bridge program manager for MDOT, said because of the construction of the Interstate 295 bridge over Veranda Street, the bridge will have to be replaced sooner than the department wanted.

“In general, we would like to see our bridges last at least 75 years. What we tend to see on the interstate system is that the 1960s vintage bridges were built economically and have some poor details that can limit how long they last,” he said. “For example, joints at the abutments and piers tend to leak over time allowing chlorides to attack the reinforced concrete substructure units, and the painted steel girders tend to corrode and are expensive to repaint.”

Work to designed a new bridge has been ongoing for the last few years and following an Aug. 8 meeting at East End School, Merrill said the final alignment has been set and final design work is underway. Final completion of the design is expected by the end of the year. Construction is expected to take place between April 2020 and November 2021, with the Exit 9 section of I-295 closed during a weekend in April 2021 when the new bridge will be swung into place.

Replacing the bridge and reconfiguring Veranda Street,” Frankhauser Jr. said, “will allow us to reduce the length of the bridge by two-thirds, reducing upfront and future maintenance costs.”

Frankhauser said the new bridge is expected to last 100 years.

“This is accomplished through the use of corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel reinforcing, composite materials, better coatings such as galvanizing and metalizing, and better bridge details such as the elimination of bridge joints,” he said.

Chapman said overall, the Department of Transportation has been receptive to the feedback it has received from the public to find the solution that works best.

“With any project like this, we will not be able to make everyone happy, but the hope is to find the best way that will allow it to function as it needs to,” he said.


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