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Grant secured to replace Rumford Point bridge
RUMFORD POINT -- Just a month after touring the aging Martin Memorial Bridge, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced last week that the U.S. Department of Transportation will award a $5.2 million grant to the State of Maine towards its replacement in 2014.
The Federal Highway Administration has classified the deteriorating 57-year-old bridge as "structurally deficient," and Maine state officials had identified it as their top priority for replacement.
Sen. Collins, who is the senior Republican on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, toured the 600-foot, three-span, steel-trussed bridge on May 3 with Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Dave Bernhardt and local officials for a close look and to learn more about the plans to replace it, then advocated strongly for critical federal funding.
"The Martin Memorial Bridge is an important crossing for residents and businesses in the River Valley area and clearly needs to be replaced," said Senator Collins. "Employers in the area, like New Page, have told me that this bridge is critical to efficient and cost-effective transportation. Nearly one-third of New Page's pulpwood and chips are sourced from south of the Androscoggin River, and the loss of this bridge would increase trucking distances and costs."
After completing the inspection, she voiced her observations.
"This bridge is in really bad condition. While it is still safe to travel on, it's clearly deteriorated greatly. There's more rust than there is green paint. The deck is also deteriorating and it's very narrow (24 feet wide). It's not up to date in any way. And that's not surprising. It was built 57 years ago and it's come to the end of its useful life," she said.
"It's a particularly important bridge because it's services so many vehicles every day. More than 1,700 vehicles, including 16 percent of which are commercial trucks, are traveling over this bridge every day," said Collins.
"What I was most amazed at are the dents at the top of the trusses, and that just shows it's too small to service the trucks that are going across it. It's very important to the mill of this area," she concluded.
"This really is an urgent priority. We want to avoid having the bridge be posted. That would mean that the heavier trucks would not be allowed on it and would have to make a detour of some 31 miles. And at a time when diesel prices are so high, that has a real economic impact on the entire area," said Collins.
Bernhardt said the total cost of the project is $9.3 million. The state will pay a 20 percent match to the federal government's 80 percent contribution. However, the MDOT will have to fund the project, and once it's completed, submit for reimbursement of the federal share.
During construction, the old bridge will remain open. The new bridge would be built about upstream by 600 feet and tie it in where three dilapidated buildings now stand. The channel is narrower there, so it means building a shorter, less costly span and siting it for greater sight distance on Route 2 than what's currently available.
The new bridge would be 32 feet wide, curb to curb. It will have 11-foot-wide travel lanes and five-foot-wide shoulders to better accommodate snowmobile traffic.
State officials believe that the new alignment, with 750 feet of sight distance in either direction, would help at the turn and be a vast improvement over the current intersection, which has experienced a high volumn of accident within a tight curve on Rt. 2 there.
Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia said he and Police Chief Stacy Carter recent talked with MDOT about safety concerns in the area and changing the gradual speed limits. What currently goes from 55 to 35 mph as motorists approach the village would be reduced to 40 three-tenths of a mile from the village on the Bethel side and to 40 two-tenths of a mile from the village on the Rumford side. In the village, the speed would then be dropped to 30 mph.