RICHMOND — The blows to the railroad bridge that crosses Route 24 have been fairly frequent and pretty hard, but they won’t be coming for much longer.

The bridge, located just north of where routes 24 and 197 merge, will be removed by the end of the month.

Earlier this week, traffic on Route 24 was slowed while Maine Department of Transportation workers removed the ties and the rails from the bridge using a boom truck for lifting the pieces out. They placed barricades across the tracks at each end of the bridge to keep people who might be on the tracks from falling onto the roadway below.

Starting Monday, the structure that spans the state highway will be removed in pieces, cut by shears and then scrapped.

Jeff Pitcher, a Maine Department of Transportation transportation manager and Federal Railway Administration track safety inspector for Maine, said the structure was built in 1903. In the last few years, it has been damaged and dented by several hits.

“One of them was pretty significant,” Pitcher said. An excavator on the back of a truck heading north struck the bridge and damaged it. As it is, he said, it could not handle train traffic and would have to be repaired before a train could cross it.

The rail line runs from downtown Brunswick along the Kennebec River to Waterville, Pitcher said, but it’s not in use. In Augusta, the line is interrupted by a parking lot, where gravel has covered the rails.

During its service, both passenger and freight trains used the route. It now belongs to the state of Maine.

Despite its “low clearance” signs and flashing lights advertising its 11-foot-2-inch height, the bridge has been a target of tall vehicles.

Richmond Town Manager Janet Smith said town officials have been asking for the structure’s removal for years.

“There have been a lot of hits in just the short time I’ve been here,” Smith said, and by a wide variety of vehicles — box trucks, recreational vehicles and the excavator.

The detour, which will direct traffic onto Ferry Road and around the removal site, required the approval of Richmond selectmen, which they granted at a meeting Wednesday.

Otherwise, Smith said, the detour would have to be on state roads, and that would take people 20 miles out of their way.

“That’s not fair to Richmond residents,” she said.

The state sought a closure for five days, but the work is not expected to take that long, she said.

Transportation department spokesman Ted Talbot said the removal doesn’t have to be permanent. The Maine Rail Group has been lobbying to bring passenger rail service back to central Maine using the line that connects Brunswick to Augusta and Waterville.

“We own the tracks,” Talbot said, “so we have the ability, if those tracks come back into service, to accommodate that.”

If it is replaced, Pitcher said, it will have to be raised about 15 inches.

Electronic signs have been posted alerting drivers to the pending Route 24 closure. On Thursday, Talbot said the wording on the sign had been changed to urge drivers to follow the detour.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ