SOUTH BRISTOL, Maine(NEWS CENTER) - After years of trying, the Maine Department of Transportation is hoping to get broad community support to replace the state's busiest drawbridge.
It's the small "swing bridge" in the fishing town of South Bristol. The bridge opens thousands of time each year, and after more than seventy-five years of use, its worn out. Cars and trucks bank as they drive over it and the bridge rattles notieably.
Operators and local residents say the span sometimes gets stuck, and requires steadily increasing and difficult maintenance to keep in operation.
Most people in the town appear to agree the bridge needs to be replaced, but the MDOT's original design for a lift -type bridge drew lots of opposition, with people complaining the design was far too large and out of scale with the small village. Selectmen and many long-time local residents have voiced support for the design, saying they need a new, reliable bridge.
But opponents, including many summer residents, took an usual step: they hired their own architect, who came up with a much smaller bridge design. They took that plan to the MD-O-T last winter, and the DOT liked it. On Wednesday, the agency showed off the new, compromise design.Still a lift bridge, but different from the previous one. They say its similar in size to the alternative plan provided by the opposition group, but the DOT says it will still be efficient and reliable. MDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van note called it "a great bridge", said it will cost about the same as the earlier design, and hopes it will win over many of those who have been opposed.
The design will be shown to the public at a meeting Thursday night at the South Bristol School. Van Note only showed NEWS CENTER a single computer rendering, along with a scale drawing comparing the two designs. He says the Thursday meeting will include more views of the proposed bridge, including renderings that will show the bridge in context with the buildings around it.
Members of thye opposition group have seen drawings of the design in recent weeks, but said they had not seen the latest version. A leader of the effort declined detailed comment, saying they want to wait to see the full presentation before commenting. However, they did indicate concerns with another part of the plan -proposed rebuilding of several thousand feet of state road on eithe3r side of the bridge. Today the MDOT said it is dropping those plans, and will only rebuild about four hundred feet of road.