Workers dismantle a crane on the closed section of Congress Street in Portland near Maine Medical Center on Friday.

A portion of Congress Street in Portland that was closed for construction work on Maine Medical Center’s $512 million expansion will reopen on June 8, three weeks ahead of schedule.

City and Maine Med officials had made it a priority to close Congress Street for as short a time as possible, to ensure that it would be open during high tourist season in July and August. The detour has been in effect since early May, with Congress closed from Weymouth to Forest streets and traffic rerouted onto Park Avenue.

The street was scheduled to be reopened by June 29. Maine Med could have been fined $10,000 per day for each day it went over the June 29 deadline.

The hospital needed to close a section of Congress Street to make room for a large crane, which took up both lanes of traffic. The crane was used to add three floors to the visitor parking garage, which will add 225 spaces to the 480-vehicle facility.

Matt Wickenheiser, a Maine Med spokesman, said several factors contributed to the work being done early, including thorough planning, the weather, and making reopening Congress Street a high priority. Wickenheiser said spring often brings high winds, especially in coastal Maine, which would have shut down work for days because operating the crane would have been unsafe. But Wickenheiser said wind was not a factor this season.

“We didn’t have one weather-related shutdown,” he said. “All the stars aligned, and combined with good planning, this was the result.”

Jessica Grondin, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said that there were no major problems with the detour and that “traffic flowed through the detour well.”

“We did have motorists who were lost and needed direction frequently,” Grondin said.

The visitor garage and the addition of two floors to the East Tower are the first phase of the five-year construction project.

The visitor garage is slated to be completed by the end of 2018, while the East Tower – which will include 64 new patient rooms and will be the new location of the helipad – is expected to be finished by late 2019.

The hospital expansion project will also feature a new main entrance on Congress Street as part of a 270,000-square-foot addition. Maine Med’s building footprint will increase by about 25 percent when the project is completed in 2023.

The expansion will add 128 new single-occupancy patient rooms and 19 procedure rooms for surgery and other treatments. The total patient capacity at Maine Med – 637 beds – will not change because rooms are being converted from double occupancy to single occupancy.

Single-occupancy is now considered the standard of care at hospitals, to help prevent infections and for patient safety and comfort.


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