An ambitious project to replace a 60-year-old highway bridge in Portland over the weekend is on schedule, and the freeway is expected to reopen Monday morning.
“Everything is going well,” Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Merrill said Sunday morning. “We are on schedule. The two new bridge decks are now in place. Today, they just work to tie them up, do earthwork and do paving. This will continue into the night hours.
The busy section of Interstate 295 between Portland and Falmouth has been closed in both directions since 7 p.m. Friday and is expected to reopen Monday at 11 a.m. A section of Veranda Street below the bridge has also been closed since last Monday and is expected to open. Monday around 2 p.m.
The $20.8 million, six-year project is expected to disrupt traffic for just 64 hours on I-295, a major transportation artery to Portland that carries 53,000 vehicles a day.
Demolition of the deteriorated bridge began Friday evening and continued Saturday. Two sections of pre-engineered bridge decks – each 80 feet long, 47 feet wide and weighing 400 tons – were held along the bridge on risers and then lifted into place using self-propelled carriers.
“The second bridge started moving around 1 a.m.,” Merrill said Sunday. “The lateral move is relatively quick and then they have to make all sorts of adjustments which take between three and four hours when they set it up.”
A FedEx truck stopped at a roadblock on Sunday morning and the driver, Bill Childs, got out to find a way on foot to the address on the package. He said many packages in the region could not be delivered on Saturday due to road closures, but drivers adjusted their routes on Sunday.
“I’m doing Falmouth and Cumberland, but they put Portland’s stuff on my truck so I can get off here,” he said. “We try to do everything we can to get things out. I don’t think there was too much disruption for people.
Carolee Carter, who lives just across the line in Falmouth, came to see the project every day. She was back Sunday morning marveling at the progress.
“They do a great job,” she said. “They all seem to know what they’re doing. They all have a trade and a function and all seem to know their trade. I’ve never seen anyone direct anyone, like, ‘Go over there and do that.’ They all seem to know what they are doing.
Construction workers work 12-hour shifts to complete the project on time, and there are 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.
The project is being led by Cianbro of Pittsfield, with assistance from Shaw Brothers Construction of Gorham and MaineDOT overseeing it. Merrill said crews of DOT state workers are also helping with the construction.
Westbrook’s Dan Krell, sitting comfortably on a rock face with a smile on Sunday afternoon, said he came every day to watch the construction and also watched the live stream online.
“It’s amazing,” he said, “I’m always impressed that things like this can be put together so that everything fits together and is on time. Everyone walks around there knowing what to do.
He said he just realized the bridge was shortened.
“I kept looking at it thinking there was something different here,” he said. “Before, it was twice as long. So it was much easier to fit it into those two segments rather than four segments or two segments twice as long.
Krell said he had always been a handyman with an interest in mechanics. Now that he is retired, he relishes the opportunity to observe progress. “When they were building the Casco Bay Bridge, I was busy working and raising kids, so I couldn’t sit and watch that,” he said. “I’m retired now, and I was like, ‘OK, when I retire, I’m going to park myself.'”
RATHER SMOOTH DETOUR TRAFFIC
During bridge construction this weekend, all traffic is expected to detour off the Maine Turnpike and back onto I-295 using the Falmouth Spur.
Northbound traffic on I-295 and Route 1 should detour off the exit ramp at Exit 9 toward Falmouth. Vehicles can connect to the highway and northern communities via Route 1.
Southbound vehicular traffic should detour via Bucknam Road in Falmouth, then south on Middle Road to Ocean and Washington Avenues to connect to I-295 south.
At noon Sunday, Merrill said detour traffic had peaked the day before northbound on Route 1 in Falmouth, but he had not heard of any other traffic problems.
“Things continued to go well on the toll road,” he said, “The only slowdowns were Route 1 in Falmouth at 4 p.m. when it was most crowded but overall people heeded the warning to stay away.”
Portland Police Lt. Robert Doherty said traffic issues have been alleviated by the Veranda plan’s street closures and detours.
“On the City of Portland side, everything worked as planned,” he said.
At around 1.30pm on Sunday, northbound traffic came to a halt again on Route 1 in Falmouth, but by 2.30pm it was moving smoothly.
SOME BUSINESSES IN THE REGION IMPACTED
Businesses and restaurants on and off the detour routes have seen their activity increase or decrease, but not quite as expected.
Curtis Brown, who was working Sunday afternoon at Rosemont Bakery on Route 1 in Falmouth, said business was relatively normal despite increased passing traffic. “People just want to get back on the freeway and don’t want to stop,” he said.
Anthony Knight, a bakery worker at Leavitt & Sons, also on Route 1 in Falmouth, said business there was “different”. The lunch rush happened at a different time than usual and they saw a lot of new customers coming in.
“I didn’t know how it was going to turn out,” he said. “It caught me off guard because I thought it would be less busy than it actually was. It’s been busy, but bordering on the same, if that makes sense.
But at least one company has seen a sharp drop in customers. Veranda Thai Cuisine is on Veranda Street near the intersection of Washington Avenue in Portland. The street was closed to all but local traffic.
“We have lost a lot of business since they closed the street last week,” said restaurant worker Phùòc Nguyên. “People don’t come to see the restaurant. …People come and go here from Yarmouth and Falmouth and come back here, and sometimes they come to see (the) restaurant and stop by, but now that it’s closed they can’t come here, they have to go around. ”
He said they were still getting business from people calling for delivery orders.
“We are waiting for the street to open up,” he said.
Back at the site on Sunday afternoon, Mark Rajotte, who lives in the neighborhood just north of the bridge, watched the progress with a small crowd. He said he was very happy with the project. He said he slept well during the 24-hour construction and didn’t mind the traffic disruptions too much.
“It’s only a few days,” he said. “There is a beginning, a middle and an end. I think it was well thought out. They prepared a lot of people, they were good at publicity. It’s a big project; there is no easy way to do this. I think they did a very good job. »
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