GARDINER — Although final designs on two Gardiner bridges have not been completed, it’s already clear the projects are expected to bring about a number of permanent changes to the city.

One of them is the relocation of Dennis’ Pizza.

Now perched on the downstream side of the Bridge Street bridge, the restaurant is expected to move, now that the state Department of Transportation has acquired the building.

“We’ll still be here; you can’t get rid of us,” Andrew Waller said Friday. Waller and his wife, Kara, have owned Dennis’ Pizza for four years, and they have until January 2018 to find a new space in town. They are now looking.

“It’s a shame that the building has to go,” Waller said, “but the bridge is old and it’s falling apart. I have watched pieces fall off in front of me. Sixteen thousand cars a day cross that bridge.”

It’s not clear what other properties might be affected by the construction.

Because the bridges are about a century old, they don’t conform to current traffic standards for lane widths and shoulders. To make the routes conform, additional property would be required.

Patrick Adams, the DOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program manager, said the right-of-way process is sensitive for both property owners and the department.

He joined other DOT officials and consulting engineers at a public meeting Thursday that drew about 60 people to Gardiner Area High School for an introduction to the complicated projects.

“We try to avoid impacts and keep businesses open,” Adams said. “At times, we can jointly determine that it’s in the best interest of both parties to relocate, and that’s the case with Dennis’ Pizza. We’ll acquire it and remove it. With the rest of the businesses, discussions are ongoing. I can’t say that’s where they will end up. It’s premature to say what will happen one way or another.”

Gardiner is the only municipality in Maine were a business is actually attached to a bridge.

Other businesses that may be affected are the A1 Diner, which is on the same side of the Bridge Street bridge as Dennis’ Pizza but is across the stream; and Chapman Fuel, on the corner of Bridge and Water streets.

The bridge reconstruction projects include work on the intersection of Water and Bridge streets and the one at Water Street and Maine Avenue. Other property might be affected.

Transportation officials also gave an overview of the project plans to date, insight into the planning process and the considerations they have to take into account to replace the Bridge Street and Maine Avenue bridges, which have reached the end of their service life.

Tim Merritt, of Stantec, the DOT’s consulting engineers, said the project is shaped by eight goals that include an accelerated construction timeline, a strong communication strategy that will promote the fact that Gardiner’s businesses are open, a minimized work zone area in each case and a commitment to manage detours to maintain traffic flow of both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks in and around Gardiner and across the region.

Currently, transportation officials are anticipating that the Maine Avenue bridge, the smaller of the two, will be replaced first, starting in the fall of 2018. It’s expected to be closed for 15 days. The Bridge Street bridge replacement is expected to be a more complicated project for a number of reasons. The biggest factor is the location of FairPoint fiber-optic cables under the bridge; they have to be shifted from the north side of the bridge to the south. Because the bridge spans the Arcade parking lot, officials anticipate that a great deal of work can be done from there before the bridge itself has to be closed.

Construction is expected to start in 2019, and the bridge closure is expected to last about two months.

Many of the considerations have been developed working with Gardiner’s Bridge Advisory Committee, made up of city officials and volunteers, who have been meeting with transportation officials for about a year.

At least one more public meeting is expected.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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