HALLOWELL — The Winthrop Street bridge connecting rural Hallowell with the city’s downtown reopened Friday afternoon 10 days ahead schedule.

Maine Turnpike Authority spokesperson Erin Courtney said the construction workers had a stretch of good weather and worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to complete the project early. The bridge originally was scheduled to reopen Oct. 30 after a 55-day construction period.

“They were constantly working on that project,” Courtney said. “To finish 10 days ahead is a testament to the hard work of the construction crews. We are so pleased.”

The project was the first by the turnpike authority using an innovative approach called Accelerated Bridge Construction. Promoted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the strategy uses innovative planning and design, modern materials and new construction methods to reduce on-site construction time, Courtney said.

The bridge carries about 6,000 vehicles per day, and a project of that magnitude typically would take about 155 days without the accelerated schedule.

Incentives were promised to the construction crew if the project was completed early. For every day ahead of the proposed 55-day time frame, the crew would receive $5,000; so in this case, a $50,000 bonus was earned.

“We really wanted them to get the bridge done on time,” Courtney said.

The $2.3 million project included concrete deck and steel girder repair, concrete substructure modification and repair, approach work and paving, work on the guardrail and bridge rails, and maintenance of traffic.

Peter Mills, the MTA’s executive director, said in a news release that he expects the bridge to safely accommodate millions of vehicles for at least the next 60 years.

“We’d like to let the driving public know how much we appreciate their patience and understanding during the detour phase of this project,” Mills said. “The extra time spent and the extra fuel they used navigating around our construction site continues their investment in their community.”

The official detour to and from Winthrop Street, both west and east of the turnpike, re-routed drivers along Whitten Road, Western Avenue, Armory Street, Capitol Street, State Street and Water Street. It was a 6-mile route.

Harris Rogers arrived on business Thursday night from Massachusetts and used the detour Friday morning to get from his hotel in Augusta to Hallowell for breakfast. He said he was surprised that the bridge had opened when he went back to his hotel in the afternoon.

“They must’ve really been working hard to get this done,” Rogers said. “It didn’t appear to be ready for traffic when I took the detour this morning, so kudos to the construction crew.”

Tom Wilson lives in Litchfield and was eating lunch at the Liberal Cup with a friend. He said he needed to get milk and would use the new bridge to go to the Hannaford supermarket on Whitten Road in Augusta.

“I haven’t been to that store in a while because the bridge was closed, so I’d go to the store in Augusta or Gardiner throughout my day,” he said. “This new structure was much needed and will be appreciated by anyone who drives over it.”

City Manager Nate Rudy said he hadn’t heard any complaints about the detours from city residents and said the public generally has been pleased with the project and will be even more pleased if it finished ahead of schedule.

“I was impressed with MTA’s internet and ground-based outreach campaigns, and after some minor struggle getting used to the detour, I haven’t heard a single complaint or had any follow-up issues to resolve,” Rudy said.

Since the bridge opened in 1955, millions of vehicles have used it to cross the turnpike. The effects of wear and tear had become more apparent in recent years, Courtney said, and the turnpike authority already dealth with several small sections of deteriorating concrete to prevent debris from falling onto vehicles passing underneath.

“This has run quite smoothly, and it’s been a win-win for everybody,” she said. “Everything went well.”

The Winthrop Street bridge was considered a priority because of the level of deterioration and the number of vehicles that use the structure daily, Courtney said.

“There was a necessity to push this project along, but we want to stress that this was a very unusual case,” she said. Courtney said because of the cost involved and the stress and physical toll put on the workers, this type of accelerated project won’t be commonplace.

“It’s not something we want to get in the habit of doing,” she said. “It would have to be a special circumstance for another one in the future.”

This bridge is another improvement to Hallowell infrastructure. In April, city voters passed a bond package that included more than $500,000 for roadwork on rural Hallowell roads and within the Stevens Commons campus; and early next year, the Maine Department of Transportation is scheduled to begin a multimillion-dollar reconstruction of a busy downtown stretch of Water Street. Courtney said the Winthrop Street bridge project was moved up on the schedule so it wouldn’t interfere with the DOT’s work on Water Street.

All this work, Rudy said, shows a commitment to improving Hallowell for future generations.

“Together they help to create an environment for new development investment,” he said. “Along with the infrastructure enhancements, we’re poised for new commercial and residential projects all over the city.”

Landscaping work will continue along the roadside of the bridge, Courtney said, for several more weeks.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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