2015-06-19 / Front Page

Lookout considered for bridge

Kennebunk and Kennebunkport selectmen weigh add-ons for new bridge
By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Selectmen from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are considering add-ons to the Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge when it is rebuilt in 2017.

However, those 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 Laurie 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.

Kennebunk selectmen are scheduled to vote on their half of that bill at their June 23 meeting, while their peers in Kennebunkport are expected to weigh in at a later session. The outlook for both votes appears positive.

“Without too much inside scoop, do you have any indication of what the Kennebunkport board might do?” Kennebunk Selectman Richard Morin asked at his board’s June 9 meeting.

“When I talked to Laurie (Smith) just a couple of days ago, she felt her board would support doing the lookouts and the interactive diagrams, that it made a lot of sense,” Tibbetts replied. “She was very supportive. And I think it’s a good thing for us to do, too.”

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,” he 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 onethird of the summer peak.

In January 2013, an MDOT inspection found the bridge to be “structurally defi- cient” 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.

Replacement of the bridge is expected to occur between January and May of 2017 and will require that it 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.

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-footwide 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.

If selectmen in either town decide not to fund the additional features, they will simply be excised from the plans with no delay in the project timeline, Timberlake said.

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.

Sheila Matthews-Bull, chairman of the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen, who also sits on the Lanigan Bridge Advisory Committee, said Monday the new bridge will almost certainly retain his name.

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

However, in contrast to actions this past week in Kennebunk, both she and Kennebunkport Town Manager Laurie Smith said a decision on bridge add-ons is not expected to go before selectmen in the Port until after the advisory committee weighs in, making it appear the bridge, figuratively at least, may not yet meet in the middle.

Matthews-Bull said the next meeting of the bridge advisory committee had not been scheduled as of June 15.

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