The state plans to replace a heavily traveled bridge that carries Interstate 295 traffic over Veranda Street just north of downtown Portland.

The project is still at least two years away, but officials are already planning for the disruption of traffic in and around Portland, including a multiday closure of the highway so the replacement bridge can be moved into place.

State transportation officials will introduce their preliminary designs for the $12.4 million bridge replacement project Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Merrill Auditorium Rehearsal Hall in Portland.

“This significant project … will impact interstate and local traffic, and bicycle/pedestrian mobility,” the Maine Department of Transportation said in a flier announcing the public meeting.

The project, due to get underway in 2020, also involves the reconstruction of Veranda Street, which runs under the bridge and parallel to the highway.

City and state officials are already weighing options for detouring traffic away from the bridge, which provides a direct connection to Tukey’s Bridge – also part of the Interstate 295 corridor.

A Department of Transportation spokesman confirmed that Interstate 295 will need to be closed in order for construction crews to slide a replacement bridge into place. Ted Talbot said in an email that the current thinking is to shut the bridge down to traffic for one weekend in April 2021.

“Currently, it is anticipated that the old bridge can be demolished, and a new bridge slid into place, during a single weekend closure,” Talbot said in response to questions about the project.

An average of 51,000 vehicles travel over the bridge each day, the DOT said. Traffic on Veranda Street totals about 14,000 vehicles per day.

The bridge was built in 1961 and the DOT rates the deck condition as poor and the bridge overall as structurally deficient, a classification that means major repair or replacement is needed in the not-too-distant future, Talbot said.

‘REPLACE OVER A WEEKEND’

The bridge over Veranda Street is located about a half mile north of Tukey’s Bridge, which carries traffic over the mouth of Portland’s Back Cove. Route 1 traffic entering Portland from Falmouth and Martin’s Point Health Care must go under the bridge to reach Veranda Street or to gain access to Tukey’s Bridge.

At Tuesday’s hearing, which is scheduled to last two hours, the state will present findings of a bridge replacement feasibility study and will listen to citizens’ concerns and answer questions. Talbot said plans are still preliminary and subject to change.

With the potential for the project to have a major effect on traffic flow, the city of Portland has been working closely with the state. That particular stretch of the interstate is prone to congestion, especially during commuter rush hours or when there has been a traffic accident.

“We’ve looked at a number of alternatives and methods to replace the bridge and found that ‘replace over a weekend’ will have the least amount of impact,” Portland’s Public Works Director Christopher Branch said in an email.

“With proper notification, the through traffic on I-295 can be diverted to the turnpike,” Branch said. “The local traffic diversion will have an impact, but if the project was done with a closure to one lane the project will take much longer with a long drawn-out impact on the local traffic.”

‘LATERAL SLIDE’

Talbot said state engineers are proposing that through traffic and long-distance travelers with destinations north of Falmouth and south of Scarborough be encouraged to use Interstate 95/Maine Turnpike and the Falmouth turnpike spur, but formal detour plans have yet to be finalized.

According to Talbot, the old bridge will be replaced using a construction method called “lateral slide.”

Lateral slide is an accelerated bridge construction technique that involves building the new bridge on temporary supports next to the existing structure.

This preparation work will take about six to nine months to complete. Once the new bridge has been constructed, the roads on and under the bridge will need to be closed. The existing bridge will be demolished quickly and the new bridge will be pushed into position using hydraulic jacks.

Talbot said that once the new bridge has been installed, road work and paving on Interstate 295 will commence.

“This approach will allow the bridge to be replaced far more quickly than conventional construction, avoid the need for expensive temporary bridges and roadways, minimize property impacts and significantly reduce congestion on I-295,” Talbot said.

After the new bridge has been installed and paved, Talbot said crews will reconstruct Veranda Street and nearby intersections.

The total project will cost $12.4 million, an amount that includes funds for engineering, inspection and construction. The bridge replacement and the reconstruction of Veranda Street is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2021.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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