Bridge’s era ends, detours begin

Route 4A in Bar Mills will be closed for about four months beginning Monday, July 11, while new construction replaces the Bar Mills Bridge, built in 1936, over the Saco River.

Linking Buxton with Hollis on Route 4A, the aging Bar Mills Bridge that spans the Saco River is set to close on Monday, July 11, leaving many drivers detoured to alternative routes. Bar Mills includes villages in both Buxton and Hollis.

With a $7.4 million-replacement under construction, the bridge will remain closed for about four months. Mark Parlin, project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the contractor is Wyman and Simpson, Inc., of Richmond.

Parlin said the new bridge needs to be tied into the roadway and represents a complete road closure.

“The contractor is allowed 120 calendar days of bridge closure starting July 11, so we expect it to be re-opened to traffic about mid-November,” Parlin said.

The present bridge, which actually is two spans – Canal and Bar Mills bridges because of an island in the river – was built in 1936, Parlin said.

Marguerite Gardner of Hollis, vice president of Buxton-Hollis Historical Society, said Tuesday the old bridge offically is the  Memorial Bridge,  honoring World War I veterans in each town.

Gardner said the historic bridge was dedicated in May of 1938 and the ceremony attracted a large crowd. She said 5,000 people showed up for the ceremony.

State public informational hearings a few years ago about replacing  the old, iron-truss bridge also drew crowds. Many home owners in the Bar Mills section, which is an area of both Hollis and Buxton, feared the project would negatively impact the area’s landmark homes.

The historical society newsletter in the fall of 2011 reported that some owners of historical homes had received notices from the MDOT of its  intent to demolish them.

But Gardner said Bar Mills is a historic district and also is a pre-historic site for Native Americans. So, she said the state designed a curved bridge that didn’t impact homes on either side of the river or disturb any historic location.

Parlin said the life span for a bridge is 75 years; and the 80-year old bridge has “definitely” exceeded its life expectancy.

On the Buxton shore, a granite, memorial stone with a plaque commerorating the bridge will need to be re-located. he historical society is planning a re-dedication ceremony for the stone in the near future.

Gardner had hoped the historic bridge could have been saved for use by pedestrians and incorporated into a park.
“They’re going to take down the old bridge,” Gardner said.

The antiquated bridge replaced an earlier one that was destroyed in a 1936 flood as had a previous one in the area.  Gardner said a flood in the 1800s, which created Usher Island in the river under the present bridge, wiped out the sawmill business of Ellis Usher, who bounced back from the disaster.

The early Usher home remains today among historic houses on the Hollis river bank. An Usher family descendent, Ronald Usher of Buxton, who has toured the home,  said Tuesday the road closure would likely inconvenience Hollis residents the most. Usher said the Bar Mills Post Office, 59 Main St., sits on the Buxton side of the river.

“That’s a heavily traveled route,” said Usher, a former legislator in Westbrook.

Besides the post office, other destinations on the Buxton side of the river include the central office of Maine School Administrative District 6, 94 Main St., a district that includes the towns of Buxton and Hollis; Buxton-Hollis Historical Society, 100 Main St.; and Leavitt’s Mill Health Center, 59 Main St.

“It’s going to inconvenience a lot,” Gardner said about closing the road.

Bar Mills bridges on Route 4A closing July 11.

Replacement of the Bar Mills Bridge will have many motorists seeking detours to go from Buxton to Hollis.

Route 4A in Bar Mills will be closed for about four months beginning Monday, July 11, while new construction replaces the Bar Mills Bridge, built in 1936, over the Saco River.

 

  • TaxiManSteve

    It is sad watching Maine remove all its historic steel truss bridges. These have character and add to the identity of each town. By doing this, Maine is becoming more like New Hampshire where one town is indistinguishable from the next. Tourists and summer people won’t pay for that. New Hampshire is find this out as people prefer Vermont and its ambiance.

    • Patrick Ledwith

      Perhaps, but I walked across that bridge a year or two ago and was shocked by the decay that one doesn’t normally see while driving over it. It had a good life, but time and weather have taken an irreversible toll.

    • The Man

      As much as we would love to, nothing last forever. We used to have a rail road station and rails that are now gone to make way for these bridges they are now replacing… and that rail system replaced a steamboat river system we had.

  • DefNotADem

    There are 3 bridges between Buxton and Hollis. It is the closest concentration of bridges over the Savo River. Losing one bridge would be nothing but an inconvenience as one can cross just 2 miles further down.

  • The Man

    Why not nab some pics from the historical society to print with this article of the bridge’s construction back in 36? Those crews were using wooden pole cranes to move pyramid sized blocks.