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Maine's $52.8M Ticonic Bridge Replacement Project to Finally Begin

Mon March 20, 2023 - Northeast Edition #8
MaineDOT & Waterville Morning Sentinel

The existing Ticonic Bridge in 2020, viewed from downstream. (Photo courtesy of Maine DOT)
The existing Ticonic Bridge in 2020, viewed from downstream. (Photo courtesy of Maine DOT)

A $52.8 million project to replace the 113-year-old Ticonic Bridge in Maine that spans the Kennebec River between Waterville and Winslow is scheduled to start. The work on the deteriorating bridge is scheduled to last four years, according to the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT).

Pittsfield-Maine-based Cianbro is the project's prime contractor.

Beginning in late August or early September, westbound traffic from Winslow will detour to the Carter Memorial Bridge, just south of the Ticonic Bridge, while eastbound traffic is slated to stay on the Ticonic, MaineDOT noted in a schedule release. Early in September, pedestrian traffic would then be re-routed to the Two Cent Bridge at Head of Falls.

A MaineDOT announcement noted that in November 2024, both east and westbound traffic are expected to be detoured over Carter Memorial Bridge, as the Ticonic Bridge will be fully closed by that time. In April 2025, eastbound traffic and pedestrians should be returned to the Ticonic while westbound traffic would remain detoured over the Carter bridge.

If all goes to plan, both east and westbound traffic will return to the new Ticonic Bridge structure in September 2026.

All construction is expected to be completed in May 2027, MaineDOT said.

New Bridge to Complement Waterville's Recent Upgrades

Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho told the Morning Sentinel on March 14 that a new bridge is needed, and the replacement will complement all the work that has been done as part of the city's downtown revitalization efforts. New lights will be installed on the Ticonic to match those already in town and in Winslow, he added.

"It's going to be a pain, but it's sort of finishing off what's happening downtown — it's just an extension," Coelho said of the project.

Winslow Town Manager Erica LaCroix called the Ticonic Bridge effort "well planned."

"Our biggest concern beyond the unavoidable disruption of traffic has been the ability of our emergency vehicles to get across the river expeditiously, when necessary," she said in a statement. "This is especially important for ambulances carrying patients to MaineGeneral Thayer.

"MaineDOT has been very accommodating [in] working out traffic preemption systems that should cause minimal delays for traffic coming from Winslow into Waterville," LaCroix continued.

She noted the bridge has deteriorated to a dangerous condition, adding that the work over the next few years "will be a significant inconvenience to our travelling public, but it's completely necessary."

Winslow City Engineer Andy McPherson and Paul Ureneck, Colby College's director for commercial real estate and the supervisor of construction downtown, met earlier in the month with Cianbro's project manager to discuss details, including where the contractor's office trailer will be positioned, McPherson said.

"Cianbro is one of the biggest bridge builders in Maine and probably one of the largest in the country," explained McPherson. "I'm sure they'll keep it on schedule and keep the project running as smoothly as possible."

Steep Banks, Varied Water Levels Could Present Challenges

Portions of the Ticonic Bridge are more than 100 years old, according to information provided by Paul Merrill, a MaineDOT spokesperson.

The structure will be replaced with a two-span steel girder with a concrete bridge deck. In addition, a single concrete pier will be built in the Kennebec River to support the span, which will, like the existing bridge, carry five lanes of traffic. It will have sidewalks on both sides of the roadway as well as widened shoulders for bicyclists.

About $25 million of the funding is from a federal BUILD grant issued to MaineDOT, which matched part of the federal money.

The project will be challenging, according to state transportation officials. According to MaineDOT's website, the riverbanks at the work site are steep, and water levels vary widely throughout the year, creating a complex set of factors.

"Although the Kennebec River is not a commercial waterway, it is a critical habitat for Atlantic salmon and shortnose sturgeon populations during spawning season," reads the state agency's Ticonic Bridge project page. "Therefore, contractor work will be restricted so that no work will be done in the waterway during the late spring and summer months. Finally, because there are numerous electricity, cable, telephone, and water utilities located along the bridge, special measures will be taken to relocate these facilities in a manner that maintains operability at all times during construction."

Ticonic Bridge Site Has Seen Many Upgrades

The current span is a three-part structure, including a former trolley line built in 1909, a roadway constructed in 1936, and another roadway built in 1970, according to MaineDOT. It began as a steel truss bridge in the 1800s before a concrete arch trolley bridge was built in the early 1900s with a 50-ft. track.

The Waterville news source noted that in the trolley system's heyday, it carried more than 2 million passengers a year.

The Ticonic Bridge was significantly damaged during the Great Flood of March 1936 after a large piece of ice crashed into one of its stone piers, causing two of the truss spans to collapse into the river, according to MaineDOT.

When repairs were done, one concrete arch was left as it was, the failed truss removed, piers were reconstructed, and a new riveted steel girder structure was built to replace the heavily damaged truss, creating the first sizable roadway for vehicular traffic in a four-span configuration. The bridge was widened again in 1970, creating a five-span configuration.

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