MDOT looks to replace Pleasant River Bridge

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MILO — Earlier this year the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) was awarded a $10.8 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to replace three structurally deficient bridges in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties. Among the trio of projects is the Pleasant River Bridge in Milo and future improvements to the span on outer Pleasant Street were the subject of a preliminary public hearing held by the MDOT on April 11 at the town hall.

“This bridge has been around since 1936, this is an old bridge,” said Michael Wight, senior project manager for the MDOT bridge program. “This bridge has had some work done to it.”

Wight said the Pleasant River Bridge has been painted several times over the decades and within the last 10 years a concrete collar has been installed. He said in 2012 the MDOT conducted a survey of bridges around the state and the Milo span received a low grade due to a concern with the floor beams.

“We did a project that summer to strengthen it so we did not have to post any load notices,” Wight said. He said in 2014 the bridge was closed for about a month for a project to fix worn concrete.

The senior project manager said the MDOT became aware of the TIGER grant program last year, with the funds being “special money above and beyond what they get from the federal highway program.”

“Lo and behold we are very lucky, the TIGER grant pays for half of this project,” Wight said. He thanked U.S. Sen. Susan Collin, R-Maine — the chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee — who toured the bridge the week before.

“A few weeks ago we learned we won it and we are pushing ahead as fast as we can,” Wight said.

The $10.8 million from the TIGER program will also help fund work at the Mattawamkeag Bridge in the town of the same name on Route 2 over the Mattawamkeag River and the West Branch Bridge in T3 Indian Purchase Township on Route 11 over the West Branch of the Penobscot River. The program has a 50/50 match with grant recipients proving an equivalence in funds and/or resources for the projects.

Citing the 82-year-old age of the Pleasant River Bridge, Wight said, “This particular bridge is structurally deficient.” He said the super structure is considered to be in poor condition with “probably more rust than paint.”

“If you look overhead you can see it’s been hit many times,” he added. “And it’s a narrow bridge, with a truck everyone stops first at the end to look.”

Wight said the bridge is made up of two 150-foot spans. “It’s only 22 feet curve to curve, the vertical clearance is 15 feet,” he said.

“Right now with TIGER we are proposing a replacement bridge,” Wight said. He said the MDOT will look at rehabilitation options, but this possibility is not as likely given the age of the Pleasant River Bridge.

HNTB of Westbrook will be the project consultant, Wight said.

“One of our big concerns on this project is environmental issues, we are told this particular stream has Atlantic salmon,” Wight said. He said the presence of the endangered species would limit when construction can be done in the water, such as only during the winter.

HNTB will also work with the MDOT to address historic and archaeological issues. Wight said a survey team is scheduled to do some related testing of the riverside land.

“Right now the bridge itself has not been determined to be historic,” he said, saying the MDOT will conduct a review prior to any construction.

“Another concern with all our projects is impact on abutting property owners,” Wight said.

“We are probably going to look at raising the bridge and making it larger,” he said, saying a five to 10-foot difference could help alleviate the ice jams that form most years. Wight said a wider bridge would likely include 6-foot shoulders on each side to provide a pedestrian crossing and continue the ATV/snowmobile access route.

The senior project manager said the TIGER grant has an aggressive schedule and the contractor would help determine the most cost-effective build option. Wight said a new bridge would probably cover a wider span over the current alignment or adjacent to the existing structure.

“We are anticipating the total cost of this project to be a $5.4 million project,” Wight said, saying he did not anticipate any local monies to be needed.

He said the preliminary design work will be done later in the year, with another public hearing to be held at this time or in early 2019.

“Our big goal of this project is to advertise it by August of 2019, have a contractor by October and start soon after,” Wight said. “Right now I am anticipating this to be a two-year project.”

“Overall we are going to make sure there’s a lane open all the time,” he said, as the exact plan to keep route open on outer Pleasant Street will be determined as the project progresses.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
PLEASANT RIVER BRIDGE PROJECT — The Maine Department of Transportation is looking to replace the 82-year-old Pleasant River Bridge on outer Pleasant Street in Milo in several years. The bridge is one of three in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties that will be replaced and/or rehabbed using a $10.8 million federal TIGER grant awarded last month.

Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom
U.S. SEN. COLLINS TOURS PLEASANT RIVER BRIDGE — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, toured the Pleasant River Bridge on outer Pleasant Street in Milo on April 5 with Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt.

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