Traffic backed up on I-295 northbound in Freeport in this 2017 file photo. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / The Portland Press Herald

FREEPORT — Freeport town officials are breathing a sigh of relief after receiving word that the price tag on $1.2 million bridge replacement and sidewalk installation project could be cut nearly in half, though numbers are still being crunched.

The I-295 Exit 20/Desert Road interchange overpass and the Exit 22/Mallet Dive interchange overpass, built in 1957, have been deemed structurally deficient and are slated to be replaced through a $19 million Competitive Highway Bridge Program Grant awarded last year. 

As traffic volumes between Portland and Brunswick grow, and with the I-295 corridor serving as a main corridor for the state’s economic markets in Portland, Boston and New York, officials decided it was time to replace the aging bridges, which were built at the same time as the interstate. Maine DOT plans to put the project out to bid in Sept. 2021, and hopes to complete construction in 2023. 

Town councilors, members of the active living committee and several residents hope to add a 12-foot-wide, multi-use path along each bridge that would help increase the connectivity between Freeport’s east and west sides and allow the town to offer a safer recreational experience. 

At Exit 20, or the Desert Road interchange, DOT officials said there would be no additional cost to the town to include a 5-foot wide sidewalk, but that the 12-foot multi-use path would cost about $555,000. 

At Exit 22, or the Mallett Drive interchange, it would cost about $195,000 to add a 5-foot sidewalk and about $655,000 for the 12-foot path, bringing the total to around $1.2 million.

However, according to Maine DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill, those numbers have been revisited, though they don’t have official estimates yet.

Based on our Local Cost Share policy, we determined that the base project on Mallett Drive would include a sidewalk and that Freeport’s share would be 50 percent of the added cost to go from a sidewalk to a 10-foot multi-use path and 100 percent to go from a 10-foot to a 12-foot multi-use path,” he said. 

Town Manager Peter Joseph told the council on Tuesday that the project could see a substantial price decrease, anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000. 

The Merrill Road Interchange Bridge, which carries Desert Road over I-295, sees 9,408 vehicles per day, and the Mallett Drive interchange, which carries routes 125 and 126 over I-295, carries 16,878, according to data from the Maine Department of Transportation. 

In order to qualify for the committed federal grant funding and meet the Sept. 2021 deadline for bidding, the Maine DOT is asking the town for a decision quickly. Officials are waiting for final numbers before deciding if and when to send the project to a vote in March, which is required if the council decided to issue bonds for the cost. 

The project also includes two bridges in Yarmouth.

Comments are not available on this story.