Reed & Reed Inc. and the Maine Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that work to replace the Gardiner bridge spanning Cobbosseecontee Stream will be suspended for at least two weeks — after work concludes Friday — to protect workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Reed & Reed officials said the Woolwich-based construction company will continue to pay its employees during the temporary work stoppage. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Most of the work being done to replace the Gardiner bridge will cease for at least the next two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reed & Reed Inc., the Woolwich-based construction company, announced Tuesday it will temporarily halt operations — beginning Friday — to protect employees during what is expected to be the peak level of the coronavirus spread in Maine.

“All employees will receive full pay and benefits for the duration of the shutdown. No one will be laid off or furloughed,” the company has written on its website. “These are extraordinary and unprecedented times that require extraordinary actions by all of us.”

Jack Parker, chairman and CEO of Reed & Reed, said Tuesday the comany employs about 200 people and has about eight projects underway in Maine and others in New Hampshire or Vermont.

“We’re going to monitor the infection curve, and when it looks like it’s on the downhill slope, we’ll make the determination that it’s probably a good time to go back to work,” Parker said.

“At the end of the day, we looked at the effect on our crews and their families. And we looked at the fact that we were not able to obtain enough PPEs (personal protective equipment), masks and so on.”

While construction has been deemed an essential activity as other businesses have closed temporarily to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Parker said the nature of the projects his company undertakes is different.

Parker said without personal protective equipment, Reed & Reed officials could not arrive at ways to keep employees safe and socially distant while working.

“To be honest, our crews were nervous, like everyone else’s,” he said. “So it’s a good time to take a brief hiatus and come back when it’s safer.”

Paul Merrill, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Reed & Reed is the only Maine contractor he has heard of — so far — that is ceasing operations temporarily because of coronavirus concerns.

“We have a management meeting every afternoon to talk about the challenges as we work through ‘business unusual,'” Merrill said. “That’s what we’re calling it. Our work is essential for the safety and mobility of the of the public, and we’re still working. We’ve put a lot of measures in place to try to keep people as safe as possible and try to minimize any spread of COVID-19.”

On Monday, MDOT issued the following announcement:

“MaineDOT employees are still working during this period. We continue to follow Maine CDC guidance to make sure all of our workers and industry partners can work safely. There will be some utility work happening on the bridge in the coming weeks, but most of the work on this project will stop until Reed & Reed resumes operations. We thank the members of the traveling public for their patience and understanding.”

Merrill said Department of Transportation officials realize that the work plan for 2020 may not be what was announced in January, but they hope it will be close.

“So far, the vast majority of our contracting partners are continuing to — and able to — work,” he said. “We just opened bids last Wednesday and the Wednesday before, because this is the season where we award our paving contracts. Stuff is moving forward, it’s just moving forward in a different way.”

But, Merrill said, the decrease of traffic on roads across Maine means a drop in expected gas tax revenue, which helps fund road projects across the state.

Reed & Reed was the successful bidder for the $12.6 million Gardiner bridge replacement project two years ago.

The project involves the removal and replacement of the Bridge Street and the Maine Avenue bridges, which cross Cobbosseecontee Stream where it runs along the northern edge of Gardiner’s downtown neighborhood.

So far, the Maine Avenue bridge has been replaced, and a pedestrian bridge has been added next to it.

Merrill said the job site will be left as it would be before a weekend or a holiday and be safe for traffic.


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