A truck travels recently over Babcock Bridge. The 53-foot-long bridge that crosses over Cobbossee Stream at the Litchfield-West Gardiner line is to be replaced beginning in June 2023. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

LITCHFIELD — Officials say Babcock Bridge, which runs more than 50 feet and connects Litchfield and West Gardiner, no longer meets federal standards and is to be replaced beginning next June.

“The existing structure is in poor condition and considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete by all federal inspection standards,” said Devan Eaton, a senior project manager and civil structural engineer with the Maine Department of Transportation.

In the meantime, Eaton said, the bridge is “absolutely still safe” for motorists to use.

The “functionally obsolete” label means at least one component of the bridge does not meet a current standard. For Babcock Bridge, Eaton said, that standard is the bridge’s width. He said the “structurally deficient” determination is made if a bridge is more than 50 years old with features that need be repaired or replaced.

“We’re replacing it to stay ahead of any major issues, like a load posting that would limit trucks or something similar,” he said. “It’s still safe, with no restrictions in its current state.”

The 53-foot-long, concrete tee beam bridge was built in 1931. The structure is 24 feet wide from curb to curb.


“It’s on a pretty sharp curve,” Eaton said, “which makes the narrow bridge width that much more of an issue.”

The new bridge is to be an 88-foot-long steel girder structure built on the same alignment, measuring 30 feet curb to curb. Eaton said the curvature of the roadway is to be adjusted slightly to meet current design standards.

Part of the concrete structures that support Babcock Bridge, photographed recently, are cracking and disintegrating. The 53-foot-long bridge that crosses over Cobbossee Stream at the Litchfield-West Gardiner line is to be replaced beginning in June 2023. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The state Department of Transportation last month awarded the contract for the new bridge to T Buck Construction Inc. of Turner, according DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill. The company’s bid was $2,489,000.

The project was originally scheduled to begin in late 2022, but Eaton said a variety of factors led to the date being pushed to June 2023. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Funding for the project is an 80-20 split of federal and state dollars, which Eaton said is typical. The federal funding is to come from a 2020 BUILD grant, and Eaton said the start date was moved to next year to align with other projects funded by the program.

Moving to next year also allows the contractor greater time to work within the in-water construction window, which runs each year from June 15 to Dec. 31.


“In general, fabrication times for the large-scale bridge items (steel beams, precast concrete components, etc.) all have increased fabrication time frames due to a number of reasons,” Eaton said, “so we allotted additional time in the schedule to account for this.”

While the bridge is being replaced, traffic might be rerouted for more than three months, Eaton said. Vehicles would likely be detoured along Route 126 — also known as Route 9 or Lewiston Road — and Hallowell Road, Hallowell-Litchfield Road, High Street and Spears Corner Road.

Altogether, the detour would be about 9 1/2 miles from one side of the bridge to the other, and about 6 1/2 miles for through traffic between Gardiner and Lewiston. Eaton said the through-route detour is 3.4 miles longer than if a motorist were driving on Route 126 the entire time.

“The detour was coordinated with both towns,” he said, “and (MDOT) has an agreement with West Gardiner for the use of the Spears Corner Road, as it is a town-maintained roadway.”

The bridge can be closed for up to 100 days without penalty to the contractor.

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