2015-07-10 / Front Page

Bridge bump-outs are budgeted

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Tourists look down the Kennebunk River from the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge, due to be replaced in 2017. Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport voted recently to contribute up to $20,000 each to have scenic overlooks added to the new bridge. (Duke Harrington photo) Tourists look down the Kennebunk River from the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge, due to be replaced in 2017. Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport voted recently to contribute up to $20,000 each to have scenic overlooks added to the new bridge. (Duke Harrington photo) Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport have agreed to pay up to $20,000 each for add-ons to the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge, linking the two towns when it is rebuilt in 2017.

In Kennebunkport the vote to fund scenic lookouts on either side of the new bridge was unanimous 3-0, on June 25, with selectmen Patrick Briggs and Edward Hutchins absent. In Kennebunk, however, the decision was a near thing, passing on a split 4-3 decision, June 23.

Selectmen Richard Morin and John Kotsonis voted against the measure, as did Chairman Kevin Donovan, although only Morin spoke to the issue.

“I want $20,000 to go into improving about 40 different potholes I can identify that almost completely consume my car when I drive through them,” he said. “I’m not sure I want to build a lookout for people who are going to Kennebunkport.”


Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport voted recently to contribute up to $20,000 each to have scenic overlooks added to the new bridge. (Duke Harrington photo) Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport voted recently to contribute up to $20,000 each to have scenic overlooks added to the new bridge. (Duke Harrington photo) Selectman-elect Ed Karytko, elected June 9 and speaking from the audience in advance of his first official meeting as a board member, echoed that opinion.

“It might be nice for tourists to stop for a moment on their way over to Kennebunkport, but no one seems to see the value in it as a resident of the town of Kennebunk,” he said. “Take care of the needs first, to me that’s a want.”

However, outgoing Selectman David Spofford, in his final meeting on the board, championed the other view.

“We don’t need the flowers in this town, but it makes the town nicer,” he said, referring to downtown beautification efforts. “Tourists drop a lot of money in this town and thank God for them, because without them a lot of us would not be in business, me among them.

“This Kennebunk vs. Kennebunkport thing can get crazy,” he said. “I think this would be an enhancement for a bridge that will look rather ordinary without it.”

“It seems like we are constantly at war with Kennebunkport, whether it’s scenic lookouts, recycling, or boat launches,” Selectman Christopher Cluff agreed. “I come back to being a better neighbor and I think we as a board need to do a better job working with our neighbors in many ways.”

In Kennebunkport, selectmen appeared to be swayed primarily by Town Manager Laurie Smith, who pointed out the new bridge will not have the wall between the traffic lane and the pedestrian lane that is evident on the current bridge.

“I know there are many days when people down there are taking photos and admiring the views, and if there was no wall, I’m concerned those people might step out into traffic,” she said.

“I think it’s a big safety issue, I really do,” Selectman Allan Daggett said.

“I’m not a fan of having something new that’s worse than what we had before,” agreed Selectman Stuart Barwise.

“I think having the bump-out will make it look a little less generic,” Chairman Sheila Matthews-Bull said.

The extras, slated to include signage and an observation platform on either side of the span – which links Dock Square to Lower Village over the Kennebunk River – are not part of the $2.7 million scope of work planned by the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT).

According to a June 3 email from MDOT Project Manager Leanne Timberlake to town managers on either side of the bridge — Barry Tibbetts in Kennebunk, and Smith in Kennebunkport — the municipalities will have to split the cost of added features. She estimated the price tag of the lookout deck, already designed by global engineering firm Stantec to be 5 feet wide and almost 20 feet long, at $35,000. The signs, to be created and built by MDOT, she said, should ring in at about $5,000. That would make the total cost to each town $20,000.

Neither town would have to fork over the funds until 2017.

Tibbetts said a decision on the extra bridge features is going to selectmen first, rather than to the 10-member Lanigan Bridge Advisory Committee, because without funding approval, there’s no sense having the committee even consider the concept.

Although the lookout decks are described by MDOT as “bump-outs,” Tibbetts said they would jut out over the water, not into the travel lane, like the traffic-calming abutments usually referred to by that term. The signs, he said, would be “interactive historical placards.”

“They would talk about what the bridge was like when it was first built, how it used to swing, where the operator’s house was, so you’d have kind of a little description you could read about the bridge and the two communities,” Tibbetts explained.

The 88-foot long Lanigan Bridge was built in 1933 over granite abutments placed in 1896 for an earlier river crossing. As a “swing bridge” it initially swiveled on a pivot to let boat traffic pass up and down the river.

MDOT traffic studies show annual average daily traffic of between 11,000 and 13,000 vehicles, with winter drive-overs about one third of the summer peak.

In January 2013, an MDOT inspection found the bridge to be “structurally deficient” due to “widespread” corrosion of the steel beams. At the time it earned a federal sufficiency rating of just 28.2 out of 100, placing the condition solidly in the “fair to poor” category. Among the inspection ratings, the bridge’s superstructure wasrateda4ona10-pointscale,whilethedeck condition and substructure both clocked in at 5.

Replacement is expected to occur between January and May of 2017 and will require that the bridge be completely closed to traffic for at least 30 days during that time. MDOT engineers have said they are “85 to 90 percent certain” the new bridge can sit atop the original 19th century abutments.

However, while using the original abutments means a much shorter time during which the route will have to be shut down, it also means the bridge can’t be much wider than it is now. As such, it cannot accommodate the wider sidewalks originally envisioned, making the bumpout overlooks necessary, she said.

The new structure is planned to be 45 feet wide, or 9 feet wider that the current bridge, with 11-foot-wide travel lanes and 2-foot-wide shoulders, plus a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the harbor side of the bridge. Another walkway on the upstream side of the bridge will be twice that wide, not counting the possible observation area.

The bridge was dedicated in 2013 to Mathew J. Lanigan, a local businessman who, for 17 years, owned and operated the Emporium, located a stone’s throw from the bridge. He oversaw the lighting of the bridge each year as an enthusiastic supporter and participant in Kennebunkport’s annual Christmas Prelude event. Lanigan served as a Kennebunkport selectman for almost a decade until his unexpected death in November 2012 following complications from brain surgery.

Matthews-Bull, who also sits on the Lanigan Bridge Advisory Committee, said the new bridge will almost certainly retain his name.

“I can’t imagine it changing,” she said.

Matthews-Bull said the next meeting of the bridge advisory committee had not been scheduled, but will take place sometime in July.

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