GARDINER — From where he sits in Newcastle, John Reny is not expecting many problems during the replacement of the Maine Avenue bridge over the next two weeks.

Reny is the president of Renys, the Maine retail chain with a store on Water Street in Gardiner. The store is supplied by trucks from its Newcastle distribution center, and merchandise is brought into the store via a rear entrance that is accessible from Maine Avenue.

“No alarms have been raised over here,” Reny said Friday.

This bridge replacement is the first of two scheduled for Gardiner as part of a $12.6 million state Department of Transportation project. The Bridge Street bridge will be replaced next year.

Work has been underway since March to prepare for the two-year project that also includes work on improving traffic flow around the downtown neighborhood.

To make sure traffic can flow and contractors have access to the construction site, several changes are being put in place. Access to the east end of the Arcade parking lot will be closed off, but the west end, which has been closed for about six weeks, will reopen.

The pedestrian bridge, set in place parallel to the Maine Avenue bridge earlier this year, will be open to foot traffic for the duration of the bridge work, and then closed again when it’s done.

“The good news is, they are actually ahead of schedule,” Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart said Friday. “They were supposed to start Nov. 8.”

This phase of the project is on a tight timeline. Jim Wentworth, project manager for Reed & Reed, the Woolwich-based company that won the contract for the project, said for the duration of this bridge replacement, crews will work around the clock to get it done by the Nov. 1 deadline.

“It will be 15 days, with a 24-7 schedule,” Wentworth said last week. “Not a lot of time to build a bridge in 15 days.”

Maine Avenue will close at midnight Thursday night.

For the first few days, workers will be using excavators with hammers on them and a crane to pull the bridge apart and put it into dump trucks to be taken away, Wentworth said.

Four precast abutments already on site will be placed over steel “H” pilings that were put in place earlier this year to form the substructure The superstructure of the bridge,  precast concrete beams, will be lifted into place over the abutments by crane. Then a concrete deck will be cast in place will be placed on top of the beams.

“Hopefully, we don’t run into any delays with weather, but you never know,” Wentworth said.

Parking in the Arcade lot is not expected to be affected for residents and business owners, he said, but they should exercise caution as they travel around the work area.

“There will be a lot of equipment in and out so safety is a big concern of ours,” he said. “We want people to be extra careful when they are in the area when they’re moving around. We’ll have our work zone cordoned off where people cannot get into that, but equipment and delivery trucks will be going in there.”

After the new bridge is opened to traffic, he said, some work will still need to be done, including installing railings.

Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart has an office overlooking the Arcade lot and the stretch of stream where the construction is taking place.

“I think people are just wondering what it’s going to be like,” Hart said. “I think this is how it’s been through the whole project because we have experienced anything like this in 100 years. People are intrigued by the big equipment. It’s fascinating to watch the work unfold.”

The state Department of Transportation has a webpage — maine.gov/mdot/projects/gardiner/downtown/ — on which it has posted project information, updates and a gallery of images from the work that has been done. People can also sign up for email alerts.

According to the schedule posted on the page, utility work under the Bridge Street bridge is expected to start this winter as well as temporary foundation construction for the Bridge Street bridge on the site of the former Dennis’ Pizza.

The Bridge Street bridge is expected to be replaced next summer, which will close Bridge Street for 30 days for the existing bridge to be demolished and the new bridge, which will be construction on site, to be slid into place.

The entire project is expected to be completed by the fall.

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