2017-01-13 / Community

Work begins on Mat Lanigan Bridge

Construction expected to be finished by Memorial Day
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — If you intend to do a little pre-tourist season shopping in Kennebunk’s Lower Village, or in Dock Square, across the river in Kennebunkport, be prepared to deal with more traffic than usual at what can already be a stop-and-go experience in vehicular frustration.

On Jan. 4, the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge across the Kennebunk River was reduced to one-lane of traffic in preparation for a $2.9 million bridge replacement.

From now until approximately March 4, traffic signals will be used to alternate the flow of traffic as the contractor begins work to abutments on either side of the river, while also building a temporary pedestrian walkway.

The bridge will be closed entirely, other than for the pedestrian walk, from about March 5 until mid-April. It will then reopen to alternating lanes of one-way traffic from mid-April until Memorial Day.

By the holiday weekend all bridge work is expected to be complete, with normal traffic patterns restored just in time for the annual arrival of summer visitors.

Even so, the work is expected to disrupt both shopping districts.

Perhaps the Kennebunk Police Department said it best in a Jan. 3 post to its Facebook page, in which it advised followers of the lane closure between the twin tourist mecca.

“Please be patient,” it said, “We will all get though this.”

When MDOT first 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, the latest plan is to use the existing 19th century bridge abutments and focus instead on what it called “a single span superstructure replacement.”

“That simplified the project a lot,” said MDOT project manager Leanne Timberlake, at a meeting last year. “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.”

While the bridge is closed, cars and light delivery trucks will be detoured 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 out 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 near the bridge.

He oversaw the lighting of the bridge each year as an enthusiastic supporter of 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, at age 48, following complications from brain surgery.

MDOT traffic studies show annual average daily traffic across the bridge 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’ssuperstructurewasrateda4on 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 wide.

In place of wider sidewalks, Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport each agreed to pony up $20,000 to create an “observation platform” 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 bridge replacement cost, and the state of Maine the other 20 percent, the towns had to pay for the frills.

According Timberlake, the price tag 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.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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