WEST GARDINER — Drivers traveling north on Interstate 295 to join the Maine Turnpike in West Gardiner get a good view of construction vehicles and swaths of brown earth as soon as they clear the toll plaza.

On Friday, a steel beam lay near a bridge on the ramp of Exit 103, with a crane waiting nearby to put it in place. The beam is one of two manufactured in Kingfield that will be added to the bridge.

The work is part of a $6.8 million contract awarded by the Maine Turnpike Authority to Wyman & Simpson, Inc., to re-deck a bridge that carries the Exit 103 southbound traffic over the turnpike to the toll booth.

“We’re removing the existing deck to replace it,” said Scott Warchol, construction program manager for the turnpike agency. “It was starting to get potholes. We’re adding a couple of beams, steel girders to allow for future growth.

When the current project is completed in November 2019, the bridge will be three lanes wide, as will the ramps on either end of it, Warchol said.

“We had to widen the embankment so when we go to the next phase we have some place to carry the traffic,” he added. “This is being done to accommodate future capacity.”

The project also is designed to raise the bridge 12 to 15 inches. “We’re trying to increase our underclearance so there’s less change of a truck hitting the girders,” Warchol said. “We’ve been trying to achieve a minimum of 16 to 16 and a half feet.

“The higher you raise the bridge, the higher you raise the roads that access it, and therefore your impacts go further away from the bridge.”

Father north along Interstate 95 in Augusta, the state Department of Transportation had to do an emergency repair after an unidentified vehicle hit a bridge, which had a clearance of 14 feet, 3 inches.

Warchol and Erin Courtney, public outreach manager for the Maine Turnpike Authority, said the plan is eventually to install an open-road tolling plaza, which allows vehicles to proceed at high speed rather than stop or slow to go through a traditional toll booth.

While the current work is going on, traffic in that area occasionally is reduced to one lane.

About 8.7 million vehicles travel annually between I-295 and the Maine Turnpike at that location, accounting for more than $8 million in annual revenue, according to the Maine Turnpike Authority 2017 Annual Report of Operation and Maintenance by HNTB. The York toll plaza, in southern Maine, is the only one to get more traffic, with 15.1 million vehicles traveling through there, according to the same report.

Warchol expects the work to continue through most of the next year, with some stoppage anticipated in the colder months because of temperature that precludes concrete work.

In the meantime, a paving project is underway from southwest of the bridge at mile 102 to mile 98. A separate contractor is doing that work as well as adjusting the height of guardrail and end treatments.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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