The Ticonic Bridge, viewed from Winslow and looking toward Waterville. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced Thursday the Maine Department of Transportation will receive $25 million from a federal BUILD grant to help with the $40.5 million cost to replace the bridge. Michael G. Seamans/ Morning Sentinel

A $40.5 million bridge will replace the 111-year-old Ticonic Bridge that spans the Kennebec River between Waterville and Winslow, with $25 million of the funding coming from a federal BUILD grant that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said will be issued to the Maine Department of Transportation.

“The plan is to put this bridge project out to bid in June of 2022 and our estimated date to open the bridge to traffic is 2026,” Paul Merrill, spokesman for the state DOT, said Thursday in a telephone interview.

In an announcement released Thursday to the news media, Collins, chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, said the new bridge will feature wider lanes, shoulders, sidewalks and bike lanes.

The existing bridge accommodates more than 16,000 vehicles a day, and the project to replace it will eliminate the possibility of an eight-mile detour and related congestion, should the current bridge fail, according to information from Collins’ office.

According to the state DOT, funding for the project will $7.4 million in federal matching funds and $8.1 million from a state DOT match.

The Ticonic Bridge is a three-part structure, including a former trolley line built in 1909, a roadway built in 1936 and an additional roadway built in 1970.

The state DOT’s grant application to the U.S.Department of Transportation says the bridge “has deteriorated to the point that the end of its useful life is near and further attempts to repair or rehabilitate it will not restore the full integrity of the bridge to meet today’s safety needs, load requirements or geometric standards for regional rural residents.”

The bridge replacement will improve accessibility and long-term prospects for the rural community by improving traffic flow and mobility of local residents, commercial vehicles and tourists that are vital to the region’s economy, according to officials with the Maine DOT.

It will also “maintain the current reliability of first responders and emergency services, leverage an already existing $9.2 million public private partnership to revitalize Waterville’s downtown to include calmer traffic flow, the redesign of a five-street intersection, pedestrian-friendly pathways, safe and abundant bicycle lanes and family-friendly green spaces.”

That public-private partnership project is now $11.294 million, and the DOT is expected to put the project out to bid next month.

Meanwhile, the DOT’s application for the Ticonic Bridge replacement funding says the area where it is located is unique because of the variety of traffic that uses the bridge, the commercial center it serves and the next closest bridge is 4 miles away.

Waterville is the service center of the rural region and the city has been leveraging investment from the largest educational institution in the region, Colby College, which is investing millions to revitalize areas downtown, according to the application. The bridge is the main artery from a large part of rural central Maine to downtown Waterville.

Waterville City Manager Michael Roy said Thursday the funding for a new bridge came as welcome news.

“This project will only further enhance all of the critical improvements in the downtown, especially on that end of Main Street,” Roy said.

Collins announced Thursday that Maine will receive a total of $45 million through the BUILD grant program to fund two transportation projects to replace or rehabilitate six bridges in rural Maine, as well as the Ticonic Bridge.

Elaine Chao, the U.S. secretary of transportation, called Collins on Thursday afternoon to notify her the projects would receive federal funding.

“Improving Maine’s infrastructure is one of my top priorities as Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee,” Collins wrote in her prepared announcement. “I am delighted to announce this $45 million investment to replace and rehabilitate deteriorated bridges that will benefit residents in rural Maine.

“If these bridges were allowed to continue to deteriorate, they would become subject to eventual closure, resulting in substantial detours and economic harm. These projects will strengthen our transportation network, helping Mainers reach their homes and jobs more quickly and supporting our economy. These structures represent vital connections necessary to support and sustain Maine’s local economies.”

The state DOT will receive $20 million to replace five at-risk bridges in poor condition and rehabilitate another compromised bridge as part of the Bridging the Economy of Rural Maine Project, according to Collins.

The bridges are in Litchfield/West Gardiner, Stonington, Greenbush, Southport, Milo and Bridgewater.  All of the bridges were built more than 80 years ago, with the oldest built in 1923, according to Collins.

“The substantial impact of forced closures due to substandard bridge conditions would be devastating to our rural communities,” the announcement reads.

As chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Collins said she has supported funding for the BUILD program and emphasized replacing deteriorating bridges in rural America.

In November 2019, she announced $44.6 million to replace a bridge in Woolwich and fund a harbor project in Lubec.

In September 2019, Collins hosted Chao in Yarmouth, where they announced more than $61 million to replace eight Maine bridges.

This year, the U.S. DOT has received 656 eligible BUILD applications requesting more than $9.18 billion in funding.

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