AUGUSTA — City officials expressed concerns Thursday about state plans to replace all but the abutments of the Rines Hill bridge, which is on Water Street between downtown and Hartford Fire Station, which is the city’s Fire Department headquarters.

State Department of Transportation officials said they would work with the city to accommodate concerns about maintaining firetruck travel from Hartford Station during the project.

City officials also expressed concern about the timing of the project, which Project Manager Leanne Timberlake said could take place in the summer of 2020, when, Mayor David Rollins noted, the state, and Augusta in particular, will be holding numerous public events to mark the state’s bicentennial.

Rollins asked if the DOT could wait a year to do the project.

Timberlake said when the project would be done has not been finalized yet.

Liz Brownell, of Stantec, who is working on the project for the DOT, said options include either closing the bridge entirely, which would allow for a quicker construction; or a staged project with travel across the bridge maintained in one lane.

John Bennett, a Fire Department battalion chief, said the department would prefer that one lane of the bridge remain open throughout the project so firetrucks can travel across the bridge to downtown and other areas of the city best reached from the station by crossing the bridge.

He noted the city’s largest firetruck weighs 90,000 pounds, suggesting the bridge being kept in a condition good enough to take the weight of the truck is also a concern.

Brownell said the bridge is deteriorating but is not posted, so heavy trucks can still travel over it.

She said the entire superstructure of the bridge will be replaced — everything above the abutments.

“It’s definitely approaching the end of its expected service life,” she said. “The bridge is listed as structurally deficient. So due to the structural condition, there is clearly a need for improvements there. Obviously the Fire Department is just uphill of the bridge, so that’s a concern.”

She said the state would work with the city to make sure, if the staged approach is taken, the lane left open would be wide enough for the city’s largest firetrucks.

Brownell said construction with a staged approach, not closing the bridge, could take six to nine months.

Closing the bridge for the project would allow for an accelerated schedule, possibly as short as a month or, if more costly methods are used, such as building pieces of the bridge off to the side and then sliding them into place, could take even less than a month.

City Manager William Bridgeo said which option the city would prefer could vary, depending on how long each method would take.

The Rines Hill bridge crosses over a former railroad bed, near the Kennebec River Rail Trail. An average of 4,500 vehicles cross it per day, according to DOT data.

A DOT report on the condition of the 67-foot-long, 42-foot-wide bridge rates the deck condition as poor with advanced deterioration and the superstructure and substructure condition as fair.

The bridge was built in 1939 and is made of steel and concrete.

Timberlake said the project is in the early stages. She said the state is open to input on what appearance the new parts of the bridge should have, including the railings that run along the top of the bridge.

Rollins noted the bridge is a gateway to the downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, so ornamental fencing that would enhance the bridge’s appearance would be preferable.

At-large Councilor Corey Wilson asked that the railings be aesthetically similar to historic-looking streetlights that line the downtown.

Brownell said the bridge railings would have to meet crash-testing standards, but there are options for railings beyond standard railings such as the ones on the bridge now.

Rollins said the project is an opportunity to improve the downtown and said the bridge has been deteriorating, at least cosmetically, for a long time.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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