DRESDEN — Starting Monday, the Middle Bridge, which crosses the Eastern River, is scheduled to be closed for maintenance.

Several residents noticed recently that a long piece of metal, or cross member, was hanging down from the deck of the bridge, which has reignited longstanding concerns over the condition of the bridge.

Paul Merrill, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Thursday the scheduled maintenance is to address the metal piece, but more work is planned.

The bridge deck that carries the roadway and the substructure of the bridge — the portion below ground level — are rated in poor condition. The superstructure is rated in serious condition.

Nicole Rogers, Dresden town administrator, said Thursday via email that some residents have complained to the Department of Transportation about the condition of the bridge.

Town residents report they have changed their travel routes to avoid the bridge and many have shared their opinions that the bridge is not safe.


Audrey Holt said she doesn’t use the bridge often and tries to avoid it.

“I believe the bridge needs a lot of work, especially since there’s wood blocks holding part of it up, along with the cross member falling off it recently,” Holt said.

For nearly a decade, signs have been posted limiting traffic using the bridge on Patterson Road, which is also Route 197, to one truck at a time. Nine months ago, the Department of Transportation limited the allowable load size to vehicles that weigh no more than 15 tons.

Starting Monday, Middle Bridge in Dresden will be closed for maintenance to address the piece of metal hanging from the bridge deck. The Maine Department of Transportation is evaluating the 88-year-old bridge to determine whether it should be rehabilitated or replaced. Photo courtesy of the Dresden Town Office

Route 197 also crosses the Kennebec River, connecting Dresden to Richmond and providing an east-west access route that connects coastal areas to interstates 95 and 295, as well as the greater Lewiston area.

“The bridge is safe for allowable loads,” Merrill said. “We also increased our inspection frequency to every six months. Our team of engineers closes any bridge that is deemed unsafe to cross.”

Middle Bridge, built in 1936, has been carrying traffic over the Eastern River for 88 years. The main span of the bridge is a 260-foot-long steel truss with a short concrete approach span on the east side. The clear width of the bridge is 22 feet.


According to an online public meeting the department posted about the bridge, it has been repaired twice due to vehicle collision strikes. The post also details the condition of the components of the bridge, which includes deteriorating concrete and some corroding steel on the railings and underneath the deck.

The online meeting indicated the original schedule for replacing bridge was completing design by 2022 and advertising for construction in 2023 or 2024, but those dates have been delayed.

Merrill said the department’s design team is now investigating rehabilitating the historic truss bridge. If rehabilitation isn’t prudent, the bridge will be replaced.

“The results of our analysis will determine the final scope of the construction project, which is scheduled to go out to bid next year,” he said.

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