SKOWHEGAN — A public meeting is scheduled for later this month as officials move forward with plans to build another bridge over the Kennebec River to ease downtown traffic congestion.

The town’s second bridge committee has suggested whittling down the options for a second span over the Kennebec from seven to two, keeping a downstream and downtown crossing as the leading contenders.

The Maine Department of Transportation and T.Y. Lin International officials plan to present the findings of a feasibility study Sept. 28 at the Skowhegan Community Center at 39 Poulin Drive. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the town’s Facebook page.

Six bridge options have been discussed as well as a seventh option to not build at all. At a public hearing in June 2020, officials reviewed transportation needs, environmental concerns, funding measures and other aspects of the project.

While all bridge options are still on the table for discussion, members of the second bridge committee recommended earlier this summer moving forward with the downstream and downtown crossing options.

The downstream crossing, projected to cost $25.5 million, would be built near the Great Eddy and would provide roadway connections between U.S. Route 201 and U.S. Route 2.

The downtown crossing, meanwhile, would be just downstream of the existing Margaret Chase Smith Bridge and would enhance roadway connections in the downtown area. This option is projected to cost $55.3 million.

Local, state and federal money would be used to cover project costs.

The public will be able to provide feedback during the Sept. 28 meeting, and an online survey will be available for up to two weeks after the meeting.

No decisions will be made at the meeting. Instead, officials want to see what residents say before selectmen take any action.

The Margaret Chase Smith Bridge handles around 25,000 vehicles a day, including some 1,000 tractor-trailers that slow traffic. By comparison, the Casco Bay Bridge in Portland handles about 30,000 vehicles. Residents have said that a second bridge is necessary as companies like Sappi and New Balance continue to grow and increase truck traffic through town.

Diverting traffic onto a second bridge would also improve safety and mobility downtown, officials argue.

The latest round of talks on another bridge gained steam in the fall of 2019 when selectmen met with state officials to improve transportation in the Skowhegan area.

From 1997 to 2006, another committee looked at ways to divert traffic away from downtown, but disputes over a bypass kept any discussion about a new bridge from moving forward.

Information on the second bridge feasibility study and related documents can be found on the town’s website.

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