For the past two years, motorists wanting to use the ramp on upper Main Street in Fairfield to go north on Interstate 95 have had to take alternative routes through Clinton, Newport or Western Avenue in Fairfield.
That detour, caused by state Department of Transportation work on the bridges over the Kennebec River, is about to change. The northbound ramp is expected to open as early as this weekend if temperatures warm enough to clear ice from the ramp and bridges.
“It will be open for approximately two months,” Fairfield Town Manager Joshua Reny said. “And then it will be closed again for roughly six weeks while the bridge is being painted.”
Reny said transportation officials told him about four years ago that repairs to the aging spans would take crews through all of 2013.
“We did communicate with DOT — I don’t think they’re dragging their feet on fixing the bridges,” Reny said. “My understanding was that it was a major repair that they were making to both of those bridges. We knew it was going to be very time consuming.”
The northbound ramp at exit 133 was officially closed to traffic in December 2011, said Mark Parlin, project manager for the state Department of Transportation.
The bridges were designated by the 100th Maine Legislature in 1961 as the Clinton A. Clauson Memorial Bridges. Plans for the spans were drawn up in 1962 and the bridges were completed in 1964.
Clauson was mayor of Waterville and succeeded fellow Waterville Democrat Ed Muskie in 1958 as governor of Maine when Muskie stepped down for a successful run for the U.S. Senate.
Clauson died in office in 1959.
The $8.67 million bridge project involved removing the concrete decking on the northbound and southbound lanes of the bridge, Parlin said. He said bypasses were built on the highway at either end of the bridges to divert traffic while the work was being done.
Each bridge span is about 1,000 feet.
During construction over the past two years, the easiest way from U.S. Route 201 in Skowhegan to I-95 north has been to turn left over the Hinckley Bridge in Fairfield and then Hinckley Road into Clinton, Reny said. Motorists from Skowhegan and points north also could take U.S. Route 2 to Pittsfield or Newport and connect to the interstate there, he said.
From points south of the Shawmut section of Fairfield on U.S. 201, drivers could take the southbound exit of the interstate to the exit at the truck stop on Western Avenue in Fairfield and pick up the northbound lane there. Motorists could also go into Fairfield and take Western Avenue to the northbound ramp of the Interstate.
“They are all round-about ways,” Reny said.
Parlin said the on-ramp will close again in two months for about six weeks to allow crews to paint the repaired bridges and to do some detail work on the bridge deck replacement work, which was an $8.67 million project. The job painting the bridges is estimated to be in the range of $2.8 million. Parlin said all of the work on the bridges is paid for with 80 percent federal highway money and 20 percent state DOT funds for road infrastructure.