An ambitious project to replace a 60-year-old highway bridge in Portland in one weekend is on schedule, and Interstate 295 is expected to reopen to traffic late Monday morning.

The final stage of the $20.8 million Veranda Street bridge project was paving the replacement bridge, a job that got underway around 5 p.m. Sunday. Paving both sides of the bridge will likely be finished during the overnight hours. After the replacement bridge has been paved, construction crews will stripe the roadway and set up temporary guardrails, according to Tim Cote, the project’s manager.

Cote, who works for HNTB engineering in South Portland, said in a telephone interview that he is confident the bridge will reopen for traffic at the predetermined time – 11 a.m. Monday. Cote was on the bridge construction site Sunday evening and reported that everything was going well.

Paving crews could be seen from Olympia Street – which connects with Veranda Street – standing on top of the new bridge deck Sunday evening as a Maine Department of Transportation drone zoomed high overhead. The smell of sausages and fried onions wafted through the air from Fat Guys, a food truck that arrived on the construction site Friday night to feed hungry workers.

There is a possibility that the bridge could reopen earlier than 11 a.m., but Paul Merrill, spokesman for MaineDOT, warned travelers that they should not plan on using the Veranda Street bridge or I-295 south of Falmouth for their Monday morning commute.

“The public should expect the Interstate and the bridge to remain closed until 11 a.m.,” Merrill said in a telephone interview Sunday night.


If the work should be completed before 11 a.m., Merrill said MaineDOT will notify media outlets and post messages on social media.

Once the highway reopens, there won’t be a ribbon-cutting ceremony or even recognition of the first motor vehicle to  cross the new span. Traffic will just resume.

“We talked about doing something like that, but logistically it just wouldn’t work,” Cote said of a bridge ceremony. “Everyone who has been working on this project is pretty tired.”

Cote and Merrill agree that the massive weekend project, six years in the planning stages, has gone according to schedule. There were reports that some travelers complained Friday night when they discovered that I-295 would close at 7 p.m.

“There is always going to be a segment of the community that are unaware, but the majority of people got the message,” Merrill said. “For the most part, despite the inconveniences, people have been very understanding.”

Cote said the greatest challenge his team faced was minimizing the impact on traffic. “We wanted to get this project done with as little impact on traffic as possible.” Cote said he believes the state and the general contractor, Cianbro of Pittsfield, accomplished that goal.


A drive around the bridge construction site on Sunday did reveal traffic congestion along Route 1 northbound in Falmouth, but that was due to the decision to allow northbound traffic exiting Tukey’s Bridge to use the Exit 9 off-ramp. The off-ramp runs parallel to the new bridge, bringing traffic past Martin’s Point Health Care, over Martin’s Point Bridge, and onto Route 1 and Falmouth.

Cote said there was discussion in the early planning stages of building a temporary bridge on the Exit 9 ramp and using traditional construction methods to replace the aging Veranda Street bridge. Cote said that process would have taken as long as four years to complete and caused ongoing traffic headaches. He pointed out the bridge is one of the most heavily traveled in Maine, carrying 53,000 vehicles a day.

“We did the project smarter and more quickly,” Cote said, referring to the process of building a new bridge next to Veranda Street and sliding it into place over a 64-hour period. The southbound section of the new bridge deck was put into position at 5 p.m. Saturday and the northbound section at 1 a.m. Sunday.

Work continues on the replacement of the Veranda Street bridge on I-295 in Portland on Sunday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Everything’s going smoothly,” Merrill said Sunday morning. “We’re on schedule. Both new bridge decks are now in place. Today they’re just working to tie them in, do some dirt work, and do some paving. That’ll continue into the overnight hours.”

The busy section of I-295 between Portland and Falmouth has been closed in both directions since 7 p.m. Friday. A section of Veranda Street beneath the bridge has also been closed since last Monday and is expected to open Monday around 2 p.m.

Demolition of the deteriorating bridge began Friday evening and continued Saturday. Two sections of prefabricated bridge decks – each 80 feet long, 47 feet wide and weighing 400 tons – were held alongside the bridge on risers and then moved into place using self-propelled transporters.


The construction project caused some inconveniences, as expected.

A FedEx truck stopped at a road barricade Sunday morning, and the driver, Bill Childs, got out to find a way to the address on the package on foot. He said many packages in the area could not get delivered Saturday because of the road closures, but drivers adjusted their routes Sunday.

“I do Falmouth and Cumberland, but they’ve put the Portland stuff on my truck so I can get down here,” he said. “We try to do everything we can to get stuff out. I don’t think there’s been too much of a disruption for folks.”

I-295 is closed just north of Exit 9. Motorists must find detours until late Monday morning.

Carolee Carter, who lives just over the line in Falmouth, has been coming down to watch the project each day. She was back Sunday morning and marveled at the progress.

“They’re doing a great job,” she said. “They all seem to know what they’re doing. They all have a job and a function and all seem to know their jobs. I never see anybody directing anyone, like, ‘Go over there and do that.’ They all seem to know what they’re doing.”

Construction workers were putting in 12-hour shifts to get the project done on time, and there were about 90 workers on site each shift, Merrill said.


“We have a whole bunch of teams coming together and all pulling in the same direction, so we’re in really good shape,” he said.

Shaw Brothers Construction of Gorham assisted Cianbro in the project,

Dan Krell of Westbrook, sitting comfortably on a rock wall with a smile Sunday afternoon, said he had been coming each day to watch the construction and had viewed the livestream online as well.

“It’s amazing,” he said, “I always get impressed that things like this can be put together so that everything fits and is on time. Everybody is wandering around there knowing what to do.”

He said that he just realized that the bridge was shortened.

“I kept looking at it thinking, something is different here,” he said. “It used to be twice as long. So it made it a lot easier to put it in those two segments rather than four segments or two segments that were twice as long.”


Krell said he has always been a tinkerer with an interest in mechanics. Now that he is retired, he relished the opportunity to watch the progress.


During bridge construction over the weekend, all through-traffic had to detour onto the Maine Turnpike and get back onto I-295 using the Falmouth Spur.

Traffic heading north on I-295 and Route 1 had to detour onto the Exit 9 off-ramp heading toward Falmouth. Vehicles could connect back to the highway and communities north via Route 1.

Southbound vehicle traffic had to detour to Bucknam Road in Falmouth, then head south on Middle Road to Ocean and Washington avenues for a connection to I-295 south.

As of noon Sunday, Merrill said that detour traffic had peaked the day before northbound on Route 1 in Falmouth, but that he had not heard of any other traffic issues.


“Things have continued to move well on the turnpike,” he said, “The only slowdowns have been Route 1 in Falmouth, at 4 in the afternoon when it was the most congested, but by and large people have heeded the warning to stay away.”

Portland police Lt. Robert Doherty said that traffic issues were mitigated by the Veranda Plan’s street closures and detours.

“From the city of Portland side, everything has worked as planned,” he said.

On Sunday around 1:30 p.m., traffic was stop-and-go again northbound on Route 1 in Falmouth, but by 2:30 it was moving smoothly.


Shops and restaurants on and off the detour routes saw business increase or decrease, but not fully as expected.


Curtis Brown, who was working Sunday afternoon at Rosemont Bakery on Route 1 in Falmouth, said business had been relatively normal despite the increase in traffic passing by.  “People just want to get back on the highway, and don’t want to pull over,” he said.

Anthony Knight at, a worker at Leavitt & Sons Bakery, also on Route 1 in Falmouth, said business there has been “different.” The lunch rush happened at a different time than usual and they saw a lot of new customers come in.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” he said. “It got me off guard because I thought it was going to be less busy than it actually was. It’s been busy, but borderline the same, if that makes sense.”

But at least one business saw a definite drop in customers. Veranda Thai Cuisine is on Veranda Street close to the intersection of Washington Avenue in Portland. The street was closed to all but local traffic during the project.

“We lost a lot of business since they locked the street last week,” said Phùòc Nguyên, a worker at the restaurant. “People don’t come by and see the restaurant.”

But he said they were still getting business from people who called in orders for delivery.

“We’re hanging in, waiting for the street to open,” he said.

Back at the construction site Sunday afternoon, Mark Rajotte, who lives in the neighborhood just north of the bridge, was watching the progress with a small crowd. He said he was really happy with the project. He said he had slept fine through the round-the-clock construction, and the traffic disruption did not bother him too much.

“It’s only a few days, he said. “There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to it. I think it was well thought out. They prepared a lot of people, they’ve been good with publicity. It’s a big project; there’s no easy way to do it. I think they’ve done a really good job.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.