AUGUSTA — Federal transportation officials announced today that an expedited review process will help four projects nationwide, including a new Richmond-Dresden bridge over the Kennebec River.

The “We Can’t Wait” initiative follows an executive order issued by President Obama in March that called for faster permitting and reviewing processes.

“Across the country, our investments in infrastructure are putting people back to work building and modernizing our transit systems, railroads, bridges and highways,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “The Administration is committed to doing its part to help communities across the country move forward with these critical projects as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The changes in government process, specifically allowing archaeological data to be recovered while environmental consultations are taking place, could save up to a year on the Maine bridge project, according to the federal Department of Transportation. Federal approvals are set to be complete by February, with work to begin in the spring.

The $25 million project includes nearly $11 million in federal money.

The new federal process also is expected to help projects in North Dakota, Oregon and Washington state.

Earlier this year, state transportation officials said the new bridge will be at least 75 feet above the Kennebec River to allow Coast Guard ships to travel under it to break ice. It will be about 1,300 feet long and will replace a deteriorated 80-year-old swing span that’s near the site of Fort Richmond. About 2,300 vehicles a day cross the river.

When it was built in 1931, the swing bridge was unique and is one of only a handful still in use in Maine. It will remain in use while the new bridge it built, but eventually will be torn down.

In July 2011, archaeologists looked for significant artifacts that show the site was home to one, or possibly two, old forts dating back to about 1720.

 

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