GARDINER — As the expected date of the replacement of Gardiner’s two downtown bridges draws near, plans are continuing to evolve.

Representatives from the Maine Department of Transportation gave a presentation on the current status of the project Wednesday at Gardiner Area High School to about 50 area residents.

The Bridge Street bridge and the Maine Avenue bridge both cross Cobbosseecontee Stream near where it flows into the Kennbec River, and both are at the end of their useful lives.

In the current plans, the construction schedule has been adjusted. While the bridges still will be replaced in sequence, the start of the first phase, the Maine Avenue bridge replacement, will be pushed out to 2019; it had been expected to start in the fall of 2018.

In any case, it will start after the completion of the reconstruction of Water Street in Hallowell, said Tim Merritt, the transportation department’s consultant on the project.

While the plan is not final and still is subject to change, Merritt said the state is in discussions with the owners of the Chapman Fuel building on the corner of Bridge and Water streets.

To improve the flow of truck traffic that would turn west onto Water Street, part of that property would be used for a right-turn lane that would include a pedestrian refuge island for those crossing Bridge Street, at the north end of the intersection.

The state also is proposing to acquire the Gardiner Feed building on Maine Avenue, Merritt said. The stream has undercut the foundation and stability is a concern.

The relocation of Dennis’ Pizza already has been announced. Restaurant owners Andrew and Kara Waller are looking for a new space; they have to be out of the current one, built alongside the Bridge Street bridge, by January.

Merritt said the A1 Diner, which is in the downtown historic district, is expected to remain in place, although bridge construction is expected to cut off access to the building for about 20 days during the replacement of the Bridge Street bridge.

Merritt said the project is expected to be accelerated to lessen the effect on city residents, business owners and those who drive through Gardiner daily. To meet the accelerated schedule, the contractor will be allowed to do demolition around the clock until the that part of the project is complete; and extended work days would be allowed during the rest of the project.

Among the changes anticipated is adding a turning lane on Bridge Street, which raised some concerns about making that section of Bridge Street feel more like a highway.

District 2 Gardiner City Councilor Patricia Hart urged project planners to consider the scale of change this project would impose on the city.

“When you see all this together, it strikes me that Gardiner will look very, very different,” Hart said. Hart, who serves on Gardiner’s Bridge Advisory Committee, said the possible acquisition of properties and the widening of the street makes her sad. She invited the DOT’s property acquisition team to attend either a City Council meeting or a Bridge Advisory Committee meeting to talk about what might happen if the state acquires those properties.

The presentation reflects the work that transportation officials and their consultants have put in over months to shape the project, and their meetings with the Bridge Advisory Committee, surveys of downtown business owners who are expected to be affected by the construction and the resulting detours, and other public meetings collected comments from residents about detours, the needs of pedestrians, public outreach and any other concerns they have had.

Along with these changes, the project also is expected to incorporate a pedestrian bridge as part of the extension of the Kennebec River Rail Trail project. That will be the subject of a meeting on Aug. 24.

The meeting was livestreamed.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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