GARDINER — More than two years of planning has gone into a project that will result in replacement of bridges over Cobbosseecontee Stream in Gardiner over the next 18 months.

Now a different kind of planning is taking place to help downtown Gardiner businesses and residents get through the construction, noise, detours and disruption that the project will bring.

On Thursday, nearly three dozen people spent an hour and a half in the Gardiner City Council chamber, hashing over plans and ideas to overcome the problems posed by working and living alongside major construction for an extended period.

“We want to make living with construction a positive experience,” Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart said. “When this is done, it’s going to look amazing.”

The $12.6 million project will replace two bridges that cross the stream, also known as Cobbossee Stream, in Gardiner, at Bridge Street and at Maine Avenue. A separate pedestrian bridge will be built parallel to the Maine Avenue bridge. In addition to the bridge replacements, the project also includes changes to two intersections on Water Street, where Bridge Street becomes Brunswick Avenue and where Maine Avenue becomes Church Street.

A large crane that’s part of bridge construction project is seen Friday beside the Cobbossee Stream in Gardiner. The concrete abutment, on right, will be part of a new pedestrian bridge. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

That’s the work that the Crossing the Cobb committee has taken on. With community, business and city government members, it’s taking inspiration from the Down with the Crown committee that was formed in Hallowell while Water Street was under construction.

“These projects happen all over the state,” said Anne Bell, program director of the Maine Downtown Center. Ball was the facilitator of Thursday’s meeting. “Hallowell is such a good example of what can be done.”

A large crane that’s part of a bridge construction project is seen Friday beside Cobbosseecontee Stream in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Hallowell’s committee sponsored art projects and carried the message that the city’s downtown businesses remained open during the project to add to the communication efforts of the Maine Department of Transportation.

In Gardiner, business owners are concerned about a range of problems the project might bring, including shifting delivery times, the loss of parking spaces and internet interruptions.

They, along with downtown residents and members of Gardiner Main Street, were talking through both their concerns and ideas Thursday.

“Deliveries are huge for us,” said Stacy Caron, of Gerard’s Pizza. “We can’t do a 12:30 p.m. delivery.”

For Clare Marron, owner of Monkitree Gallery, utilities are a concern.

“If there are any communications outages from moving that (fiber optic) trunk line under Bridge Street, that will cause my internet and phone not to work. I’d like to know in advance,”  Marron said. “If I can’t sell in my shop, I can do something else.”

Antiques sit on glass shelves at 1 Brunswick Trading on Friday in Gardiner. Co-owner Mary Ann Johnson said that she’d have to change the display because of possibility of vibration during bridge construction projects. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

There were also concerns over whether pounding piles into the ground would jar buildings or require retailers to remove breakable items from their shelves.

Gardiner Public Works Director Tony LaPlante said notifications of interruptions and outages are expected to be made with plenty of notice.

The construction project is also highlighting a different challenge in Gardiner. Parking, particularly on Water Street in the downtown neighborhood, is less available than it used to be, and the additional traffic from the construction project is making people more aware of the limited resource.

Committee member Karen Tucker offered up a two-prong approach for keeping Water Street parking spaces open for customers. One is a note to be left on windshields to remind people of the two-hour parking limit, and the other is for business owners whose business might require them to park for more than two hours.

Ball said Maine communities used construction milestones to celebrate the progress of projects and have used the the reshaping of their communities as a way to introduce public art.

She offered up some practical advice to business owners. The construction period might not be the optimal time to hire new employees, and it might be a time when schedules have to be adjusted.

She also suggested that the committee not take on more work than it could reasonably do.

Keeping a sense of humor and open lines of communication, she said, is critical.

Beyond the immediate concerns, the committee aired ideas about outreach and connection.

Mike Miclon, the artistic executive director of the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center, said there’s a plan to invite the construction workers to stay in Gardiner on Fridays for the free waterfront concerts, with the incentive of meal vouchers.

Peter Johnson, co-owner of 1 Brunswick Trading, talks about fishing and wildlife in the Cobbosseecontee Stream corridor on Friday in Gardiner. During the meeting, he said he plans to reach out to state fish and game officials to highlight the connection that Gardiner has with both the Kennebec River and the stream. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Peter Johnson, owner of 1 Brunswick Trading, said he plans to reach out to state fish and game officials to highlight the connection that Gardiner has with both the Kennebec River and Cobboseecontee Stream that feeds it, and he asked whether Reed & Reed Inc., the contractor on the project could install a pole and platform for an eagle’s nest.

“The stripers are running now, and the alewives migrating,” he said.

In the months leading up to the March start of the project, the Maine Department of Transportation and Stantec, its consulting engineering firm, met regularly with the Gardiner Bridge Advisory Committee and held several public informational meetings to provide information on how the project was shaping up.

In February, the transportation department awarded the project to Reed & Reed, and work started in March.

By that time, the property that housed Dennis’ Pizza had been torn down and the former Chapman Bros. building at 2 Bridge St. would be torn down several weeks later.

A fly fisherman casts in Cobbosseecontee Stream on Friday below the Bridge Street bridge, top left. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

As the schedule now stands, work this spring and summer will focus on preparing for the installation of a pedestrian bridge across the stream at Maine Avenue. That will require traffic restrictions on Maine Avenue and around the construction zone.

In the fall, Maine Avenue is expected to be closed for 15 days so the Maine Avenue bridge can be replaced. Detours will be in effect during that time and lane closures can be expected.

Over the winter, the Arcade lot under the Bridge Street bridge will be closed so utility work can take place and a temporary foundation for the Bridge Street bridge can be built.

While a 30-day closure of Bridge Street is not expected to take place until the summer of 2020 so the existing bridge can be removed and its replacement set in place, lane closures are expected throughout the spring and summer as work gets underway to prepare for that.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2020.


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