HARTFORD/SUMNER — Two bridges in Hartford and Sumner are slated to be replaced and Maine Department of Transportation officials recently held a hearing to inform residents of the tentative project plans.
The hearing was held March 9 at Sumner Town Office where 13 people attended, according to Andrew Lathe, DOT project manager. DOT officials reported further deterioration of the Heald Bridge in Sumner and the Fields Bridge in Hartford and Sumner could become unsafe and require closing the roads over the bridges.
The goal is to have the final design for the two replacement projects completed by this fall or winter. The DOT will then tentatively advertise for bids in February 2018 and begin construction in summer 2018, Lathe said in an email.
The funding for Heald Bridge is $700,000 and for Fields Bridge, $800,000, which includes preliminary design, right of way costs, construction and construction engineering. The Federal Highway Administration is footing 80 percent of the bill and state resources will cover the remaining 20 percent.
The DOT is considering three options for the replacement of both bridges. They include:
- closing the bridge and detouring traffic, which would last up to six weeks, or 45 days. This has the fastest total construction time and is the most economical and recommended option.
- staged construction, which has the highest costs associated with it and both bridges are too narrow for this option.
- erecting a temporary bridge, which also has high costs.
“The added construction cost, permitting requirements, and private property impacts for staged construction or installing a temporary bridge on site outweigh the traffic inconvenience for the volume of traffic moving over these bridges,” Lathe said. “A closure with detour is the quickest construction option with the least amount of impacts and provides the safest working environment for the contractor.”
DOT officials are working on preliminary design reports for both projects, which should be complete by early summer. The reports will include:
- bridge and road alignments.
- evaluation of bridge types, including width, span length and foundation.
- traffic control.
- a hydraulic analysis for Fields Bridge.
- geotechinical borings results.
Lathe noted the DOT is still figuring out details and shared preliminary ideas about the replacement bridges. Both are likely to be single-span, which means the bridges will be supported at either end of the structure, and “the existing in-water pier for Fields Bridge will be removed.”
“Both bridges will likely have concrete foundations founded on steel piles driven to bedrock. The existing stone abutments will be removed (although we are analyzing the reuse of the Fields abutments),” he said. “The superstructures may be concrete or steel beams depending on span length and will have a concrete deck with a concrete or bituminous wearing surface. Bridge widths are yet to be determined.”
Heald Bridge is located on Redding Road in Sumner and spans the west branch of the Nezinscott River.
There are a number of deficiencies for Heald Bridge, including the substructure is in serious condition. Other issues include the bridge deck is in poor condition, the stone abutments have settled with voids and cracks, the scour – which is caused by swiftly moving water carrying away soil from around a bridge foundation that can create holes and compromise the structure – is critical and the bridge is too narrow for two lanes of traffic.
“In the case of the two Sumner bridges, the original foundations were built sometime in the 1930’s and we do not know what the current stacked stone abutments are founded on,” Lathe said. “Part of the preliminary design will determine what the soils conditions are and how far down ledge is located. The replacement bridge foundations will be designed so that future scour will not be a concern at these locations.”
Sumner Selectboard Chair Mary Ann Haxton shared another concern regarding Heald Bridge.
“The concern was that the bridge on Redding [Road] had flooded in the past. They weren’t able to raise it enough to get it out of the flood zone,” she said, adding DOT officials would look into this further.
Existing bridge conditions include:
- it was built in 1938.
- it is a single 23-foot span steel stringer, or multi-beam bridge, where the beams support the deck.
- it is roughly 15 feet wide from curb to curb.
- the speed limit is 35 mph.
- it is posted for a 3-ton weight limit.
The tentative detour route is Redding Road, Black Mountain Road, Greenwoods Road/Main Street (Route 219), Tuell Hill Road and Heath Hill Road, measuring approximately 9.2 miles. Lathe said there was limited concern from residents regarding the detours and bridge closings.
“The Bridge Program identifies a detour as though a person needed to circle around from one end of the bridge to the other,” he said. “This is certainly not how people travel and I only mention this as even though we will have a signed detour, locals may find alternate routes that are shorter or more convenient.”
Fields Bridge is located on Gammon Road and spans the east branch of the Nezinscott River, which is the town line between Hartford and Sumner.
There are also a number of issues with Fields Bridge, including the substructure is in serious condition. While the deck is in fair condition, the superstructure is in poor condition. Other deficiencies include the steel girder – which supports the deck – is rusting and has holes, the stone piers have voids, the abutments and pier footings are exposed, the scour is critical and the bridge is too narrow for two lanes of traffic.
“It has that open grid decking,” said Lee Holman, Hartford selectboard chair and neighbor to Fields Bridge. “Because it’s a singing bridge, salt and sand and moisture have gone down and caused the high beams to rust.”
Existing conditions of the bridge include:
- it was constructed in 1938.
- it is a two-span bridge, which is a bridge deck with additional support underneath that creates two openings for water to pass through.
- it is roughly 16.3 feet wide from curb to curb.
- the total length is 46 feet.
- the speed limit is 35 mph.
- it is posted for a 25-ton weight limit.
Lathe said the DOT has to determine if it will reuse the existing abutments and will know after the geotechincal investigation, including borings, is finished.
“The advantage to reusing the existing abutments is primarily one of cost, speed of construction, and environmental impact,” he said. “If we can stay out of the water the project could begin much earlier in the summer (before July 15th, the permitted in-water work window start date), the schedule would not be burdened with removal of the existing foundation and replacement with a new one, and there would be less impact to the water resource.”
Fields Bridge could be rebuilt narrower than the current structure, even though it’s narrow enough now to be considered a single-lane bridge. Lathe noted it’s less than 8 feet from the bridge rail to the center line.
“It creates a narrow and uncomfortable condition should two vehicles attempt to meet and pass each other over the bridge. When larger vehicles like trucks, dump trucks, plows or emergency vehicles attempt to cross the bridge the situation become untenable for two vehicles,” he said. “The bridge widths are wide enough now to provide the sense that two vehicles may pass.”
Holman commented on the DOT’s concern.
“I have only lived there for 42 years. I have never seen two people attempt to cross it [at the same time],” she said, adding one vehicle will back off and wait its turn so another can pass over the bridge.
Holman added both of the towns road commissioners – Alan “Bim” McNeil for Hartford and Andy Wickson for Sumner – want the new bridge to be 20 feet wide.
“The road commissioners mentioned it’s difficult for plowing now for both towns,” she said. “If you have something that’s 14 feet wide, they’re going to be threading the needle for the bridge.”
Holman noted her concern that wider roads and wider bridges create faster traffic. She said the speed limit is 35 mph over the bridge and the surrounding area, “but the God’s honest truth is people come screaming down there over the bridge.”
She also worried that a narrower bridge would increase a hazard for people who park on either side of the bridge and fish from the sidewalks during the summer.
“We … agreed with Hartford that we wanted it wider,” Haxton said, noting Sumner wants people to be able to fish from the bridge once it’s replaced.
The proposed detour route is Gammon Road, Town Farm Road, and Main Street (Route 219), which is approximately 7.8 miles.
Haxton has one reservation regarding the bridge replacements.
“My only concern is the time it will be closed,” she said. “And as long as it is well advertised, I think we will be in good shape.”
Lathe said the DOT does not plan to have an additional public meeting, but updates regarding the projects will be shared with the towns and letters sent to abutters.