Maine Department of Transportation officials announced plans Tuesday to replace the Route 1 bridge north of the Taste of Maine Restaurant in Woolwich. The state hopes to finance the $30 to $35 million project with federal highway monies.
MDOT Project Manager Devan Eaton told selectmen he couldn’t predict when construction would begin. “We hope to have the engineering portion completed by 2021 and, depending on funding, construction to start in 2022 and completed the following year.”
HNTB Corporation’s Timothy Cote, a Westbrook engineering consultant, said the most recent inspection found the bridge’s steel frame “structurally deficient.”
“This doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for traffic but it does mean it needs to be addressed,” he told the board. Cote said because corrosion beneath the bridge was found to be fairly extensive, it would cost less to replace the bridge than repair it. The state hasn’t determined the height or length of the new bridge, or whether it would be made of steel or concrete.
The two-lane bridge spans the railroad alongside Pleasant Cove. Cote said it was built in 1933 and was widened in 1957 and 1977. MDOT estimates an average of 19,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge.
Eaton said MDOT would be working closely with the forthcoming Kennebec River Estuary Restoration Project. He said MDOT also planned to address the tidal flooding that occurs at the junction of George Wright Road and Route 1.
Eaton said there would be public informational meetings. No dates were given.
State offers lot sale
“An offer too good to refuse,” was how Selectmen’s Chairman David King Sr. referred to Maine Department of Transportation’s proposal to sell the town a small lot abutting the Route 1 pedestrian tunnel. “They’re asking $8,000 at that price and given its location. I think the townspeople would be foolish not to buy it,” King told the Wiscasset Newspaper Tuesday afternoon.
After mulling over the offer Tuesday night, the board agreed to ask voters at a special town meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16 in the municipal building, for permission to buy the lot with monies from the undesignated fund account.
For years, the town has leased the small lot on the corner of Walker Road and Route 1 for a dollar a year. MaineDOT has decided to sell it and is offering the town first refusal. “There’s room there to park eight or so cars,” continued King. “It’s right alongside the pedestrian tunnel. People park their cars here when they visit the Tanner Memorial which is on the opposite side of Route 1. Without the lot, there’s really no place to park.”
The board considered buying the lot, less than an acre in size, using contingency monies and funds from the Tanner Square Memorial account. After consulting with town attorney Kristin Collins, the board opted for a special town meeting. “I can’t imagine anyone being opposed to buying it – not for that price,” added King.
In the 1980s, the lot was home to Donnelli’s Italian Restaurant, a two-story wooden building close to the highway. “When the state widened Route 1 to four lanes they acquired the property and demolished the building,” recalled Selectman Dale Chadbourne.
The tunnel beneath Route 1 was built in 2000, the same time as the new Sagadahoc bridge. The town began leasing the lot after the tunnel opened.
Chadbourne said he supports the purchase. “We don’t get any tax revenue from it now, and because of its size would get very little tax revenue if a private owner bought it.”