AUGUSTA — The Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western is due this summer for a million-dollar paint job, parts of which are expected to bring loud noise to the low downtown bridge and its neighbors.
The work on the 45-year-old bridge crossing the Kennebec River is expected to take place from August to mid-November. From two weeks to a month within that period, the work is expected to be loud, as the equipment used to blast old paint off bridges tends to be noisy, according to Devin Anderson, senior project manager of the state Department of Transportation’s bridge program.
The work will take place beginning as early as 6 a.m. and continue until as late as 9 p.m.
Those hours of work, and the expected noise, have city officials concerned it will be disruptive, especially with the Inn at City Hall assisted-living center and its generally elderly residents at one end of the bridge, and the downtown area, which has a number of occupied apartments on its upper floors, on the other.
“Do you see the building?” Mayor David Rollins, pointing at the Inn at City Hall on a map of the project area, said to Anderson during a discussion of the project at Thursday night’s Augusta City Council meeting. “We think you’ll hear from councilors that 6 in the morning is going to be rough.”
Rollins suggested the residents of the Inn at City Hall should be notified ahead of time of the coming work so they aren’t unnecessarily surprised by waking up to the work taking place.
The much larger Memorial Bridge, just downriver from the Calumet Bridge, was painted in 2012.
Painting the Calumet Bridge is expected to cost about $1.1 million.
Anderson said the transportation department will require whatever contractor is chosen for the job to use 15-foot-high sound walls to help keep the noise down, but he warned that some of the work will still be “very loud.” He said the state would work with the city staff to help notify residents of the area about the work,
“It’s so hard to do these projects in communities, because a lot of our bridges are so close to people’s houses and other things,” Anderson said. “It’s necessary to put clauses in there to try to drive the decibel levels down.”
He said the most noise will be generated during the sand-blasting process used to remove the old paint, with the din created by equipment including one or two large compressors, a dust collector and a recycling unit.
He said the department generally wants to limit noise levels to around 80 decibels at neighboring property lines or buildings, which is roughly the same decibel count that can occur during a conversation.
“We’d be trying to stay around 80 decibels if you could,” Anderson said. “But it’s a deep, low sound, it permeates through buildings, so it is very difficult to stop it completely.”
He said the state wants to keep the work hours for the project as open as possible, because restricting hours of work could result in higher bid prices. He said flexible hours generally would make it more likely a contractor could complete the work faster.
“The more I can leave it open, the better prices we get and the faster they can get in and out,” he said. “Because if they can work a full day, or a long day, that may be another day you don’t have them there working.”
Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti said the best role for the city to take is to notify residents of the immediate area the work is coming, so they’ll know to expect it, and the accompanying noise.
“I think it is a project that has got to be done,” she said. “It’s going to be noisy at some point. I think what we should do as a city is get leaflets out to everybody in that area that is going to be affected. You say to them it’s going to be painful but it’s going to be short in duration.”
At-large Councilor Corey Wilson said the city could have a discussion, with whatever contractor wins the bid for the work, to encourage the company to limit work during the early morning or late evening hours.
Ward 4 Councilor Anna Blodgett said she thought the city’s noise ordinance restricts such noisy work from taking place before 7 a.m., and she thinks 6 a.m. is too early to start,and 9 p.m. seems too late to work.
City Manager William Bridgeo said state projects are exempt from such local ordinances.
Resident Mary Saunders said elderly residents who live near the bridge may be home all day and could find it hard to rest while the noisy work is taking place nearby. She also asked whether vibrations from the work could cause damage in the apartments of Inn at City Hall residents by potentially knocking commemorative plates off their walls and fragile figurines off their shelves.
Bridgeo said he would explore that issue with engineers.
Anderson said the contractor will be required to contain 100 percent of the materials, including lead paint, that are removed from the bridge. Containment devices will be attached to all sides of the bridge, preventing material from falling into the river, and lead removed from it will be vacuumed up and sent through a recycler and the waste sent to a licensed disposal facility.
Anderson said the work is not for cosmetic reasons — almost all the painted area isn’t visible from on top of the bridge anyway. Instead, he said, it’s meant to preserve the bridge to make it last as long as possible. He said it is hoped the paint job will help preserve the bridge for another 25 years.
The bridge was built in 1972. Until 2009, it was known as the Father Curran Bridge, but it was renamed through state legislation because of sexual abuse allegations that arose after the Rev. John J. Curran, a Roman Catholic priest at St. Augustine Church from 1962 to 1972, died in 1976.
Two lanes of traffic and one sidewalk will be kept open during the approximately two-month-long project. Part of the third lane and the sidewalk on the upstream side of the bridge will be closed to provide space for equipment.
Leif Dahlin, community services director, said DOT officials agreed to alter the previously planned schedule for the work, delaying it until after the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration and planned activities at Old Fort Western, which is on the south side of the east end of the bridge.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647