The Southport Bridge opens by swinging its middle section to the side to let boats pass through. (Photo courtesy of MDOT historic bridge archives)
One of the last remaining swing bridges in Maine is set for a major rehabilitation in 2023, but the unique character of the structure will not change, according to the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT).
Spectrum News reported July 7 that the 83-year-old bridge, connecting Boothbay Harbor to Southport Island, is unlike thousands of other spans in the state in that it is among the few swing bridges left in Maine. In addition, it is staffed and opened manually when boats taller than 10 ft. need to enter or exit Townsend Gut, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean.
Uncharacteristic of most such spans, the Southport Bridge opens by swinging its middle section to the side to let boats pass through.
Jason Stetson, a bridge project manager at MaineDOT, told Spectrum News that the span needs upgrades to its deck, supporting structure and electrical system.
"There's very few that are like this one left in Maine," Stetson explained, adding that the repairs will improve the bridge without changing how it operates.
Eighty percent of the $13 million Southport Bridge repairs will be paid for with federal funds, with the rest covered by the state.
After a virtual public meeting in June, Maine set aside 14 days for a comment period, which ended July 8.
As of the morning of July 7, Stetson had received five written comments on the bridge project, with most of them in support of the repair work. Some have questioned whether summer lane closures will be necessary, leading him to reply that there will be a single lane closure on the two-lane bridge during summer because part of the project involves concrete, which needs to be installed during warmer weather.
The rest of the improvement will take place in the fall and winter, he explained, in part to accommodate environmental concerns prompted by the presence of Atlantic salmon and Atlantic sturgeon.
Approximately 3,250 vehicles travel the bridge each day, with numbers swelling in the summer months to accommodate those with vacation homes on Southport Island.
The 368-ft.-long span is scheduled to undergo construction in early-to-mid 2023 with completion in 2025, Stetson said.
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