The Penobscot Narrows Bridge near Bucksport shut down at noon Sunday and was expected to remain closed until at least Monday afternoon because of melting ice on the bridge’s overhead cables.
Maine Department of Transportation officials closed down the bridge in anticipation that the ice would melt as temperatures moderated for the first time in days.
On Dec. 29, five cars were damaged, two of them destroyed, from falling, basketball-sized hunks of ice from last month’s ice storm. The bridge was shut down to avoid further accidents. The bridge reopened the next day.
Crews will re-evaluate the bridge every hour or so on Monday to make sure it is safe before reopening the structure to traffic, Maine DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said. The bridge will reopen as soon as enough ice has fallen that it is again safe for vehicles, he said.
The 447-foot-high bridge connects Verona Island with the Waldo County town of Prospect over the Penobscot River.
Talbot said the temperature there had reached about 30 degrees shortly after noon Sunday.
“We are hoping the sun and a bit more rising in the temperature will let Mother Nature do its thing,” Talbot said.
He said crews were forcing hot air into the piers, where the cables are anchored on each side of the bridge, hoping to speed up the melting process.
If that does not work, crews will use a crane to gently tap away the ice.
Talbot said rain in the forecast for Monday could also help melt the ice.
Motorists face a 42-mile detour to Bangor to access the nearest Penobscot River crossing.
“It is inconvenient. We want to open this bridge as soon as we can,” Talbot said.
Beth Quimby can be reached at 791-6363 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org