RICHMOND — Work on the new Richmond-Dresden bridge has been hampered by winter’s icy grip on the Kennebec River, but the contractor on the job still hopes to have it open to traffic in November this year.
That would put it well ahead of initial state Department of Transportation projections that the bridge would not be ready until July 2015.
Crews from Woolwich-based contractor Reed & Reed couldn’t finish as much work as they’d hoped on the concrete and steel piers that will hold the bridge surface when it is complete, because of the early, hard onset of winter.
“We’ve been struggling. The ice came early, froze up the river and seems to be holding really tight,” said Charlie Guerette, project engineer for Reed & Reed. “But we’re still working on the abutment on the Dresden side, and we’ll start on the Richmond side the first of next week. We’re still on schedule to begin setting structural steel in May. We’re pushing to get the new bridge open in November.”
Guerette said the contractor had hoped to work on the mid-river bridge piers until the middle of January, but the early freeze forced that work to stop around the end of December.
A crew of about 15 remains at the site, working on the parts of the project that can be done on, or near, shore. Come summer, when the deck is being built, more than 20 workers are expected to be working on the bridge.
For now, Reed & Reed’s barges and cranes are parked alongside the river, awaiting the ice’s departure.
The new bridge will take the place of a nearly 80-year-old deteriorating swing bridge.
The old bridge will remain in place and be used until the new bridge opens, then will be removed.
Guerette said Reed & Reed hopes to have traffic using the new bridge in November so its crews can spend next winter removing the old bridge.
Guerette thanked the public for its patience during the project, though with the old bridge available to use while the new one is built, delays for motorists have been few and far between.
One section of the rusted old green bridge swings to the side to allow taller ships to pass through. The new bridge is fixed, but it was designed to be tall enough to allow Coast Guard ice-breaking vessels to pass under it. At its peak, the new bridge will be 75 feet above the Kennebec River.
Guerette said the Coast Guard icebreakers will be able to get through the old bridge and the construction site for the new bridge to go upriver to break ice.
Reed & Reed won the bridge job with its $14.3 million bid and started working in July last year.
The new bridge is expected to cost about $18.6 million total, with engineering and construction costs included. The project initially was projected to cost as much as $25 million, but bids came in lower than expected, according to Ted Talbot, spokesman for the state transportation department.
In 2012 the bridge project was one of four nationwide designated to be fast-tracked through the federal We Can’t Wait initiative, which, federal authorities said at the time, could speed up the project by up to a year.
About 3,200 vehicles a day cross the old bridge, according to state data.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647 [email protected]