2015-12-11 / Front Page

Bridge to be closed 45 days, max

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Spectators swarm the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge spanning the river between Kennebunk’s Lower Village and Kennebunkport’s Dock Square on Sunday, Dec. 6, to cheer the arrival of Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their crustacean boat crew, one of the highlights of each year’s Christmas Prelude festivities. (Duke Harrington photo) Spectators swarm the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge spanning the river between Kennebunk’s Lower Village and Kennebunkport’s Dock Square on Sunday, Dec. 6, to cheer the arrival of Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their crustacean boat crew, one of the highlights of each year’s Christmas Prelude festivities. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUBK — Despite its importance to the local economy, fewer than 30 people attended a Dec. 1 informational meeting on replacement of the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge.

“I think I counted 29 people,” said Leanne Timberlake, project manager with the Maine Department of Transportation. “But there were a lot of questions.”

Much of the inquiry swirls around just how long the bridge will be closed, given the link it provides between the economic hubs of Kennebunk’s Lower Village and Kennebunkport’s Dock Square commercial district.

When MDOT began looking into a new bridge spanning the Kennebunk River, the assumption was that it would take at least two and maybe three years to complete. However, Timberlake said Monday the latest plan – pegged as a $2.8 million project – is to use the existing 19th century bridge abutments and focus instead on what she called “a single-span superstructure replacement.”

“That simplified the project a lot. It means we can use pre-cast products – box-beam components that support themselves by the tension between them – we’d transport in and drop in place.”

Timberlake said that if all goes as planned, the project will go out to bid in late June. The selected contractor will move in between mid-October and late-November to install needed platforms in staging areas, as well as a pedestrian bridge that will serve as a link between the two busy tourist areas even while the bridge is closed.

Following some pre-work in January 2017, during which time one lane may be closed, backing up traffic behind a temporary light or flagger, the actual shutdown will come sometime in March 2017, lasting “no more than 45 days,” meaning “no later than Memorial Day,” Timberlake said.

However, before that will come at least one more public meeting, “in the February-to-March [2016] timeframe,” Timberlake said.

“With the meetings we’re holding, we’re kind of kicking off what will be the final design phase, assuming we get public support,” she said, adding, “I think we have general support from most people, although there are a few business owners who are concerned about the project affecting their early tourist season, but we are really doing the best that we can, to minimize the impact as much as we can, to accommodate everybody.”

At last week’s meeting, most of the questioning seemed to focus on what MDOT can do to make certain the bridge is re-opened by Memorial Day 2017.

“There were several people who expressed the desire for us to enforce the construction schedule,” Timberlake said. “It’s very important to them that the contractor does not go over the time allowed. There will be a penalty put in place for every day the project goes over schedule, although it’s too soon for us to say how much that might be.”

While the bridge is closed, cars and light delivery trucks will be moved onto Durrell’s Bridge Road, about a five-minute detour, Timberlake said. Larger trucks will have to take the long way around, going all the way to Route 1 to get from Dock Square to Lower Village, and vice versa.

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.

However, it was not until 2013 that the bridge was given a name, when it was dedicated 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.

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 its steel beams. At the time it earned a federal sufficiency rating of just 28.2 out of 100, placing its condition solidly in the “fair to poor” category. Among the inspection ratings, the bridge’s superstructure was rated a 4 on a 10-point scale,while the deck condition and substructure both clocked in at 5.

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 during a full replacement.

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 width.

In place of wider sidewalks, selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport have each agreed to pay up to $20,000 for add-ons to the Lanigan Bridge to include observation platforms on either side of the span, complete with interpretive signage detailing the history of the bridge and the viewscape.

With the federal government slated to pick up 80 percent of the $2.8 million for the bridge replacement, and the state of Maine the other 20 percent, the towns will have to pay for the frills.

According to Timberlake, the price for the lookout decks, already designed by global engineering firm Stantec to be 5 feet wide and almost 20 feet long, is $35,000. The signs, to be created and built by MDOT, should ring in at about $5,000 total, she said, making the cost to each town about $20,000.

Timberlake said Monday she has yet to receive confirmation from either town that it is all in for the extras. However, last June, selectmen in both towns agreed to pick up their share of the tab.

In Kennebunkport, the vote to fund scenic lookouts on either side of the new bridge was 3-0 on June 25, with Selectmen Patrick Briggs and Edward Hutchins absent. In Kennebunk, however, the decision passed just 4-3 on June 23.

Selectman Richard Morin and former Selectman John Kotsonis voted against the measure, as did Chairman Kevin Donovan.

“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,” Morin said, at the time. “I’m not sure I want to build a lookout for people who are going to Kennebunkport.”

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