Town and state officials discuss a proposal for a second bridge over the Kennebec River during a public hearing Tuesday night at the Skowhegan Community Center. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — State transportation officials continued to highlight the importance of building a second bridge over the Kennebec River in Skowhegan and emphasized that the bridge concept is still in an early stage of development, as residents raised concerns about the proposal at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The construction of the second bridge, first officially considered by the town in 1997, took on new urgency last month as a state transportation initiative looking at overall downtown traffic improvements identified the proposal as a priority among other changes. That decision came after December’s historic flooding temporarily closed the Margaret Chase Smith Bridges, bringing up new public safety concerns about having only one river crossing.

And, in about 10 years, Maine DOT would need to construct a $20 million temporary bridge anyway in order to complete required maintenance on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridges, which currently span the Kennebec River in downtown Skowhegan, according to Martin Rooney, a Maine DOT project manager.

Studies conducted as part of state transportation project, dubbed the Village Partnership Initiative, or VPI, determined that a bridge connecting U.S. routes 2 and 201 near the downtown would be the ideal location, said Tony Grande, a transportation engineer for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., the consultant working with the town and state on the VPI. Previously, six locations were considered, with the options narrowed down to two in 2021.

“That location makes the most sense,” Grande said. “It has the best value.”

Even so, several residents spoke against the proposed bridge location at Tuesday’s public hearing, which drew about 35 people.


Ann Spaulding, who said she chairs the Veterans Memorial Park committee, urged officials to avoid building the bridge near Veterans Memorial Park. The proposed location likely places the north end of the bridge somewhere near the park, which has drawn concerns in the past.

“You tell them that (the park needs to be moved), and they’re going to be very, very mad,” Spaulding said about park supporters. “And that they’re not going to want you to put that bridge where that park is.”

Grande said a future environmental impact study — the next step in the engineering process — would assess the impact on the park. Transportation officials met with veterans in Skowhegan earlier this month to discuss the issue, he said.

“My hope, as a veteran myself, is that you will not have to move that memorial,” he said.

The veterans park impact aside, John Youney, a local attorney who served on the town’s Planning Board for more than 18 years, said the town recently installed a 1 million gallon sewer overflow tank under the parking lot next to the park on Water Street.

“The overflow tank is just mind boggling to me that you would destroy that at this point in time,” Youney said.


Youney also said that prior studies during his time on the Planning Board found that the downtown bridge location would displace 200 residents on the south side of the river.

Grande said he was not aware of the study that produced that figure. Rooney said last month the state would try to minimize its impact on residents as it acquires land to build the bridge.

Officials also heard several concerns about other proposals that are part of the VPI, such as making Madison Avenue two-way between Water Street and the intersection of Commercial and Elm streets.

But the bridge is the top priority, Grande and Rooney said. Other decisions will be made considering the bridge’s location.

Asked if the state will move forward with the bridge project even if town residents are against it, Rooney said Maine DOT has to consider its responsibility to provide safe roads.

The state would need to build a temporary bridge in the coming years anyway, so it would be ideal to engage the town in building a permanent bridge instead, Rooney said.

“We want to come up with solutions. We want to do this together,” Rooney said. “The last two studies, including this one, Skowhegan invited DOT in here to work together to solve problems. And that’s been our first and foremost goal.”

The town’s Board of Selectmen would decide on final recommendations later this spring, according to a project timeline.

The subsequent environmental impact study could take up to two years, followed by a few years each for design and construction.

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