SKOWHEGAN — The current findings of the study on the second bridge will be presented to the public Tuesday by officials from the town and the Maine Department of Transportation with the expectation that residents will contribute their views.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. after the Board of Selectmen meeting at the Community Center.

The study is being conducted by T.Y. Lin, a consulting firm based in Falmouth, and is funded primarily by the state through its transportation work plan at $350,000. Skowhegan is expected to chip in 10%.

Town Manager Christine Almand is expected to explain how final steps and decisions will be made on the project. The findings from the study will then be presented. T.Y. Lin is expected to present the scope of the study, which includes conditions that exist based on traffic counts. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions, voice their concerns and offer suggestions. While a bridge has been recommended, nothing has been set in stone and Almand encourages the community to offer alternatives as they see fit.

No decision has been made on whether or not to build a bridge, Almand said, and the Second Bridge Committee is trying to get public input to see where the community stands on the issue. Almand hopes the study report will be final by May 2020, when another public hearing will be held.

Discussions on a potential new bridge began in October 2018 when the Board of Selectmen met with the state transportation commissioner. The study is meant to find ways to improve transportation in the Skowhegan area. According to Almand, the study is premised on the agreement that a collaboration between the town and state will be undertaken and led by the town.

“Many people will say we need another bridge,” Almand said on Monday. “The struggle is just to determine where it will be, which will probably be the biggest wall as far as putting in another bridge in most people’s eyes.”

A former committee, which met from 1997-2006, was once in place to address ways to divert truck traffic away from the downtown and Madison Avenue in order to draw more people into downtown.

The new bridge would span the Kennebec River and connect U.S. Route 201 and U.S. Route 2, where Main Street meets Island Avenue. The bridge would be financed mainly through federal highway funding. Local money would only be used for add-ons or upgrades, including decorative lighting.

“I know that previous discussions included what was considered a bypass,” Almand said. “That is certainly not in the conversation now. It is very clear that it is not part of the conversation. Alternatives that involve bypassing the urban area of Skowhegan are not under consideration. If the public believes that we need another bridge, taking a bypass off of the plate should make that easier.”

The existing bridge is three lanes wide and carries 19,140 cars a day, according to a 2014 study. The need for a bridge has been a decades-long debate. From 2 to 5 p.m., traffic on the Margaret Chase Smith bridges are typically backed up due to rush-hour traffic from schools and factory and mill workers, the Morning Sentinel has reported.

“We really want to start the discussion with the community before we get too far into the study and before potential sites for a new bridge are proposed,” Almand said. “Along with many factors involved in the study, public feedback will help to determine if a new bridge is needed and the best solutions.”

After the meeting, the town will launch an online community feedback survey, where residents can express their concerns until the Oct. 15 deadline.


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