The Presumpscot Falls Bridge was constructed in the early 1900s and today sees thousands of cars travel it per day. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

FALMOUTH — The $1.1 million renovations to the historic Presumpscot Falls Bridge are underway, with state officials expecting completion this winter.

The bridge, initially built in 1913, is one of two working arch bridges of the type in the state, according to Maine Department of Transportation spokesperson Paul Merrill. Work on it began June 15, with overnight closures for paving beginning in September. The bridge has been reduced to a single lane.

The Presumpscot Falls Bridge carries Allen Avenue Extension over the Presumpscot River between Portland and Falmouth.

“The project scope mainly consists of bearing replacement, joint modifications, concrete deck replacement and concrete repairs,” Merrill said. “Since the start of this project, the contractor (Wyman & Simpson) has replaced the bearings, completed several areas of concrete repairs, finished the first phase of work on the superstructure and milled off the existing pavement. In the coming weeks, we will be doing paving work and making repairs to the substructure.”

According to the MDOT, the daily travel count for the bridge is about 7,500 cars, but officials expect that to grow to 8,400 in the next decade, based on the increasing amount of traffic overall and population in the area.

The project is expected to wrap up this December, as long as workers do not experience any “pandemic-related setbacks,” Merrill said.

According to files in the Library of Congress, the Presumpscot Bridge initially cost Falmouth $15,167.38 to build in 1913 and is one of two open spandrel arch bridges in the state, with the other being the Chisolm Park Bridge in Rumford.

The bridge last saw serious work in 1994 with a full rework, but Falmouth Education and Outreach Coordinator Erin Cadigan said that even then, the historic aspects were kept intact.

“The bridge is significant historically to Falmouth’s connectivity to Portland and the larger world beyond,” Cadigan said.

Cadigan spearheaded the towns 300th anniversary celebration, “where she became an expert in Falmouth history,” Town Council Chair Amy Kuhn said.

“Prior to 1759, travelers would have to ford the river at low tide just below the falls, so you can imagine the impact a bridge would have on their daily lives,” Cadigan said. “This crossing was part of the King’s Highway or Post Road begun in 1653, which was a series of roads or trails that reached from New York City to (Bangor). According to local historian Howard Reiche, Native Americans, traders, settlers, post riders and English troops used this highway which crossed the river at this location.”

There have been five different bridges over the river since travel first began in the area, she said, but the most recent iteration, the first concrete bridge, was “significant in that it was the longest single cement span in the state of Maine.”

“It is known as an open spandrel concrete arch bridge and was significant as an example of this architectural style,” Cadigan said. “My understanding is that engineers and architects who worked on that bridge’s replacement (around 1995) respected the historical significance of that structure and attempted to emulate it in their design while adapting it to modern construction techniques.”

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