WATERVILLE — State transportation officials acting in response to recommendations by Waterville and Winslow leaders will consider whether to close the Ticonic Bridge entirely while constructing a new one.

The bridge, which spans the Kennebec River between the two cities on U.S. Route 201, is scheduled to be replaced, possibly starting later this year, as part of a $40.5 million project expected to be completed in 2027.

Maine Department of Transportation officials said in recently released videos that plans call for keeping at least one lane of traffic open on the bridge during construction.

But Winslow Town Manager Erica LaCroix and the town’s new council chairman, Dale Macklin, spoke at Tuesday’s Waterville council meeting about their recommendation to DOT that the bridge be closed completely during construction. They said that doing so would not only decrease construction time by about a year, but also alleviate traffic congestion, particularly at intersections near the bridge.

If motorists will not have to wonder and worry about what days the bridge or lanes on it are open, the detouring of traffic to the Carter Memorial Bridge in Waterville, as well as the bridges over the Kennebec River between Fairfield and Benton, would go smoothly and people will adapt, they said.

“Closing the bridge, we feel, would be best,” said Macklin, who represents District 2 on the Winslow council.

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The Winslow council voted unanimously recently to recommend to the DOT that the bridge be closed completely during construction, he said. LaCroix said she understands such projects, having worked for 18 years in public works for Lansing, Michigan, as well as for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

She is particularly concerned, she said, about congestion at the intersection of Bay Street and Clinton Avenue, just before the bridge on the Winslow side.

“My biggest concern is that we have EMS and fire, and if that intersection is completely bound up, I’m not going to be able to get those emergency vehicles through there,” she said.

Waterville officials, including City Manager Steve Daly, agreed with LaCroix and Macklin about the bridge closure. Daly said the City Council on Feb. 1 could take a vote on whether to also recommend to DOT that the bridge be closed.

DOT spokesman Paul Merrill issued a statement Thursday saying the DOT carefully considers public safety, user impacts such as increased travel time and costs, impacts to businesses and conditions along proposed detours.

“That being said, in response to Winslow’s inquiry, we plan to do a deeper dive into the traffic engineering for a full bridge closure. Our engineering would have to show that a full closure won’t overwhelm the other roads, bridges and intersections on the detour.”

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A big challenge with a full bridge closure is that utilities such as water, electric and communications cross the Ticonic Bridge, the statement said.

“Building one side of the bridge at a time allows us to accommodate the move of these utilities without interruption to the public. We are considering other options, but it is likely that this staged construction approach is the only way to effectively relocate these utilities,” Merrill said in the statement. “If this is the case, closing the bridge to traffic will not save a significant amount of time. Our team will begin taking a harder look at the impacts to the traffic detour and construction schedule of a full bridge closure.”

The average daily traffic count for the bridge is about 14,000 vehicles, according to Merrill.

“It’s pretty heavily used,” he said.

Waterville Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said at Tuesday’s meeting that he had watched a DOT video presentation of the bridge project and was shocked at the idea of trying to keep traffic going on the span during construction.

“I think that your suggestion makes perfect sense,” he told LaCroix and Macklin.

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Daly, the Waterville city manager, said he checked with the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce which held a board meeting earlier Tuesday at which the bridge closure was discussed and the board decided not to take position on it.

“But there is sentiment within that organization in favor of this,” Daly said.

He said he also watched a recent Fairfield Town Council meeting where the matter was discussed.

“There was a generally favorable response to it,” he said.

Design consultant Tim Cote of HNTB Corp. says in the DOT videos that $25 million of the estimated $40.5 million project is from a grant the DOT received this year from the Federal Highway Administration. That administration requires certain timelines for completion of the project.

Construction of the bridge, for instance, must be substantially completed by September 2027. Mark Parlin, a project manager for the DOT, said the videos represent the second of two public presentations on the project. Parts of the bridge are more than 100 years old and it is reaching the end of its service life, Cote said. A bridge design study has been ongoing for about a year.

The plan is to replace steel girders, abutments, concrete arches and piers, and eliminate structural deficiencies to ensure the new bridge is safe into the future while minimizing the impact to the public, adjacent properties, environmental resources and existing utilities. The footprint will be similar to that of the current bridge, and the new structure will have five lanes and two sidewalks, as does the existing bridge. Utilities will be installed under the bridge, which will have 5-foot shoulders and 6-foot sidewalks.

The bridge work coincides with the $11.2 million Waterville downtown revitalization project expected to be completed late this year that includes changing the traffic pattern on Main and Front streets downtown from one way to two way and improving sidewalks, intersections and landscaping.

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