One bridge down, one to go.

Beginning on Wednesday, Gardiner’s Maine Avenue bridge has been reopened to traffic. And while intermittent lane closures are expected as work continues on the first of two bridges slated for replacement by next year, traffic is again flowing through the riverfront city in southern Kennebec County.

That means an end — for now — to the afternoon traffic details deployed around Gardiner’s downtown to keep vehicles moving.

“The majority of people were understanding,” Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said Monday. “We noticed that people were certainly impatient and frustrated with the situation.”

Starting Oct. 18, Gardiner police officers and Kennebec County deputies were deployed from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at intersections on both sides of the Kennebec River to ease the flow of traffic as part of the project’s safety plan.

Toman said the initial plan did not include an officer stationed at the intersection of Water Street where Bridge Street turns into Brunswick Avenue.

“If there was traffic that wanted to turn down Water Street, the one-way section, it was a pinch point,” he said. “We were able to address it that day.”

More than a year before work on the site of the $12.6 million bridge replacement project started, traffic detours and delays were discussed at public meetings. Information about the project, which is expected to replace both the Maine Avenue and Bridge Street bridges by next year, has been posted on the website for the city of Gardiner and on the city’s social media accounts.

The state Department of Transportation has also posted an informational page on its website — maine.gov/mdot/projects/gardiner/downtown/ — with alerts and updates.

Both bridges cross Cobbosseecontee Stream, which flows into the Kennebec River, just north of Gardiner’s downtown.

Even with the availability of  information, Toman said, some people did not want to be patient and did not familiarize themselves with the new traffic patterns.

“I think they were caught off guard with the bridge closing,” he said. “And they didn’t know what to do to get around the backlog.”

Reports of people speeding cropped up at Hannaford supermarket’s parking lot and on Spring and High streets, Toman said.

Melissa Lindley, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said only the afternoon commuting time appeared to be affected by the construction closure of Maine Avenue.

“During the day,” she said, “traffic flowed pretty well, and getting around downtown was not much of an issue.”

Next summer, the Bridge Street bridge is slated for replacement and that is expected to be a more complex project because of its size the location of the utilities running underneath it. Work on that phase of the project is expected get underway this winter.

Bridge Street is expected to be closed for 30 days for the existing bridge to be demolished and the new span, which will be built on site, to be slid into place.

Even though that project is longer, Toman said routing the traffic is expected to be easier. Diverting traffic on Summer Street will be less of an issue, he said.

“We can go into this with eyes more wide open and try to look at things further out,”Toman said. “You can expand a couple miles out and look at certain intersections.”

Reed & Reed Inc., the contractor on the bridge replacement job, did not return a call Monday for comment.

Jessica Lowell — 207-621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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