Footbridge finished!

Sat, 09/23/2023 - 6:00am

After months of planning and construction, renovations on the iconic Boothbay Harbor Footbridge are complete. Town Manager Julia Latter said the last inspections for the project took place in September, including final approval from Maine Department of Transportation.  

“Just as it has for over a century, the newly built footbridge will allow many future generations to connect with the beautiful harbor we call home, and continue to provide both residents and visitors a special vantage point from which to appreciate what we are surrounded by,” Latter said via email. “I am so thankful for the hard work of everyone involved in this project, and proud to be part of the town’s efforts to preserve this landmark.” 

As reported in the Register, Boothbay Harbor residents approved financing around $1.3 million in January for the renovation. In total, the project cost around $1.5 million with $250,000 support from the state, according to Latter. She said the work from the project contractor, Fuller Marine Services, is complete and was on target. However, she said the town is currently reconciling around $16,000 of unanticipated costs for utility issues.

Residents and longtime visitors may notice changes including programmable LED lighting and an A-frame structure heralding back to the historic swing bridge. There are also several bump out viewing areas with benches for people to take photos, rest and enjoy the view while out of the main pathway. 

The new design includes functional improvements, according to Latter. It has been widened to allow for more traffic space, has a higher load rating and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. In addition, Latter said the bridge was raised to help accommodate for sea level rise and weather conditions, such as ice. Latter said a higher elevation would have been desirable, but not feasible due to construction limitations.  

The footbridge also replaced the fixed pier, gangway and float on the south of the structure with three floats. Latter said the change essentially tripled dockage capacity while improving accessibility and eliminating the lowest and most vulnerable section of the footbridge structure.

Although the original footbridge was built in the early 1900s, the latest project renovated a 1970s iteration. Weather and frequent use as a top local attraction took its toll on the structure, and the town had been replacing rotting wood, according to latter.  

"The deterioration in several components was responsible for reduced load rating and what was there was not going to be capable of being open to the public for very much longer,” said Chuck Fuller, owner of Fuller Marine Services. “Something had to happen. It wasn't aesthetic, that wasn't the driving force. it was structural." 

Fuller said the previous renovation used creosote-treated wood, which is not allowed anymore. He said there is better treatment available now that is also more environmentally friendly. Overall, he said the footbridge is heavily built. 

Renovations began in early February and the bridge opened full-time in late June. It was originally scheduled to be completed in the spring, but complications with utilities, easements and weather pushed completion back, according to Latter. 

Earlier in the year, selectmen had discussed a grand opening celebration, but plans have not been finalized.