Route 2 overpass work will require some closure
Posted June 24-The highway bridge carrying routes 2, 5 and 26 across Railroad Street in Bethel is tentatively slated to be closed to traffic for three months next summer, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
The bridge is part of the Federal Highway System, and was built in 1962, making it 48 years old, MDOT engineer Rich Myers said earlier this month at an informational meeting in the Town Office meeting room .
Such structures typically have a 75-year life cycle, Myers said, and the Bethel bridge currently falls in the middle range of the Federal Highway System's “Sufficiency Rating.”
That means the structure is classified as at the point where it needs rehabilitation work, he said, but does not yet require replacement.
In the case of the Bethel bridge, the superstructure (beams, barriers, sidewalk) and foundations are rated as “satisfactory,” but the deck is in “serious” condition, Myers said.
The deck, a six-inch reinforced concrete slab, suffers from severe “cracking, sprawling and delamination,” he said.
The roadways on the approaches and bridge itself are 30-feet wide, or 38.6 feet with the granite sidewalks on both sides included, Myers said.
It is 238 feet long, and on an average day 5,850 vehicles cross it.
By 2030 that average daily traffic is projected to increase to 7,610 vehicles, he said.
On Railroad Street, which runs under the bridge, the comparable figures are 2,010 and 2,400 trips per day, Myers said.
Two timing options
Myers said MDOT was considering two options for traffic routing during the bridge work.
The first (and less expensive) would be to close the bridge in both directions while the project is underway.
In that case, MDOT estimates the work would take three months.
Traffic would be diverted over a 1.4-mile route along Railroad Street, Walkers Mills Road (Route 26) and the Bethel Station Parkway.
Such an approach, Myers said, “is always our preferred option because it's the quickest and least expensive.”
The alternative, he said, would be to do the project in side-by-side stages, leaving one lane open at all times.
“But here, because we're on a curve, and we need extra width for trucks to travel on that curve, there's not enough width between the two curbs to do it in two stages, so we'd need three,” with the third stage being the sidewalk work.
That approach would take twice as long and cost between 15 and 20 percent more, he said.
In either case, he said, for a few weeks on each end of the construction schedule, Railroad Street [under the bridge] might need to be open only to one-way traffic.
New bridge deck will be slightly thicker than the one it replaces. The sidewalks will also be reconstructed, and new crash-rated railing installed.
MDOT engineer Michael Wight said the project is projected to cost $800,000, with 80 percent of the funding to come from the federal government, the balance from the state, with no local share.
The goal is to advertise the project this winter with construction to follow next summer.
Town selectmen, meeting Monday, discussed the project briefly, with Bob Everett making the case for keeping one lane of the bridge open throughout the work.
“I think you should do it one lane at a time,” he said, “ too much traffic goes down it.” Everett estimated that 30 to 40 large tractor trailers, many carrying logs, cross the bridge each day.
Steve Bodge, MDOT's manager for the deck replacement, said Tuesday that a decision on whether or not to keep one lane open through the work will be made before the project goes to bid.
Comments and inquiries regarding the work (Project Identification Number 016851.00) are welcomed, he said, and should be directed to his attention at The Maine Department of Transportation, Bridge Program, Child Street, 16 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0016. E-mail: StephenBodge@maine.gov.