SKOWHEGAN — Six bridge options and a seventh to not build a second bridge at all were presented to the public Thursday night at a virtual meeting to review further findings from a second bridge feasibility study.

The latest study looks at several issues, including transportation measures, environmental resources, cost and funding measures, and public feedback.

The virtual meeting on the study, livestreamed Thursday night over Zoom and the town’s Facebook page, drew about 40 community members who watched remotely and submitted comments or questions.

Officials in Skowhegan are seeking public input over the next two weeks on the second bridge feasibility study.

Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions of Brunswick, which guides the feasibility study team and moderated the meeting, said the study area is limited because the town is only interested in options in or near downtown Skowhegan.

“(A bypass) is not under consideration,” Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said at the meeting. “This has a lot to do with the previous issues that the community had around a bypass last time.”


Almand said the study team is working on alternatives to a bypass. Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore was also at the virtual meeting.

Tom Errico of T.Y. Lin International, a structural engineering firm, presented several findings the team had discovered since the last meeting. One involved traffic patterns coming into town over the bridge and from other routes, including Madison Avenue, U.S. Route 201 and U.S. Route 2. Studying these patterns, Errico said, will help his team assess how traffic patterns are likely to change through 2045.

Several alternatives were presented, including six bridge options and not building a second bridge at all.

A variety of factors were considered as the alternatives were being created, including traffic volume across the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge, where traffic would be redirected. The impact on nearby intersections is still being assessed.

Errico said the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge now handles about 25,000 vehicles per day, including some 1,000 tractor-trailers that slow traffic. By comparison, the Casco Bay Bridge connecting Portland and South Portland handles about 30,000 vehicles per day.

The six alternatives are:


• Alternative 1 — Year 2045 Transportation System Management: This includes roadway improvements that mitigate existing mobility problems and safety deficiencies on the bridge.

• Alternative 2 — Year 2045 Transportation Demand Management: This looks at ways to manage traffic demand. This could be done through various means, such as carpooling and public transportation.

• Alternative 3 — Upgrade existing crossing: This looks at widening the existing Island Avenue Bridge, although the impacts on businesses that are located on the bridge currently are not yet know.

• Alternative 4 — New downstream crossing: The most expensive of the options, this looks at providing a new river crossing, with roadway connections between Route 201 and Route 2, about a mile south of downtown.

• Alternative 5 — New downtown crossing: This looks to provide a new river crossing with roadway connections in the immediate downtown area, downstream of the existing bridge.

• Alternative 6 — New upstream crossing: This looks to provide a new river crossway with roadway connections upstream of the existing bridge.


When presented Thursday night, each alternative included information on expected changes to traffic patterns. Community members were able to weigh in.

“I’m worried a bit about the possible impact of the downtown bridge on the Run of River Whitewater Recreation area,” said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan.

She said that one of the features included in the downtown bridge option would potentially be too close to part of a planned whitewater recreation area.

“The mid-river pier would be very close to the second feature — the proposed surf wave — which will be the only in-river surf wave in the Northeast,” Cannon said.

Other community members commented on aspects of the project, including uncertainty about how changes will affect nearby intersections.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy must also be considered, Freshley said.


“Traffic is down 30% to 40%,” Nathan Howard of the Maine Department of Transportation said during Thursday’s virtual meeting. “That means revenues are down, and that will have an effect on things.”

Howard said Maine DOT has a three-year work plan that will be affected by the pandemic. He said that after the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009, federal stimulus money was distributed to help states and communities.

“I’m not saying it would happen,” he said, “but it could.”

Discussions on a potential new bridge began last fall when the Board of Selectmen met with the state transportation commissioner to find ways to improve transportation in the Skowhegan area.

From 1997 to 2006, another committee explored ways to divert truck traffic away from the downtown, but that effort was not successful because of disputes about the bypass.

Last fall, the team received community members’ input on what they considered important issues. From the surveys, the team determined the main concerns included safety, traffic congestion, reducing commercial trucks passing through downtown, environmental impacts, cost and funding, river crossing redundancy, and property impact.


The study team is composed of 16 members from the town, T.Y. Lin, the Maine DOT and consulting firms. Funding for the project is coming from state and federal governments, according to Almand.

A video of the meeting can be viewed at the town Facebook page.

Additionally, the town has a survey online that community members can complete until July 9.

The next public meeting is scheduled for October, although a date has yet to be set.

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