Red flags warn truckers of the weight limit posted on the Little River Bridge on Mosher Road (Route 237) in Gorham. Construction will likely start in the spring of 2020 to replace the aging bridge.
GORHAM — The Maine Department of Transportation plans to replace the 66-year-old Little River Bridge on Mosher Road (Route 237) with construction likely to begin in the spring of 2020.
Construction could shut down a section of Mosher Road, leading to congested traffic on detour routes and intersections.
The bridge, built in 1952, was rehabbed in 1988 with a new deck and railings.
“It’s getting close to the end of its service life,” Devan Eaton, the MDOT’s project engineer, said at a recent public meeting in Gorham.
The state considers the existing bridge to be “fracture critical,” according to information cited at the meeting.
In a May traffic alert, MDOT posted the bridge for a maximum weight of 38 tons. It directed vehicles in excess of 38 tons to use Main Street (Route 25) and Gray Road (Route 202) as a detour. The posting requires trucks under 38 tons to cross the bridge one at a time.
The bridge handles about 7,000 vehicles daily traveling over Mosher Road, which is classified as a minor arterial, a commuter route.
A new bridge with steel beams and concrete deck likely will cost in the $2 million range, according to Eaton, who said he was “shooting from the hip” in estimating a cost. But Gorham taxpayers won’t be required to share costs. “This is a state-funded project,” Eaton said.
Mosher Road links the roundabout in Little Falls with lower Main Street.
If a temporary bridge with a single traffic lane isn’t built at the site during new bridge construction, commuters would have to shift to other routes.
Town Councilor Paul Smith suggested to state officials that a traffic light be installed at the intersection of Gray Road (routes 202 and 4) with Main Street in Gorham Village to aid traffic flow. Smith said traffic starts backing up there in the afternoons.
The Little River empties into the Presumpscot River just down stream of the bridge, said Steve Hodgdon, a project consultant from Hoyle, Tanner & Associates.
The bridge carries utilities over the river and Mark Mosher, a nearby neighbor, recalled a memorable flood. Mosher told state officials that the bridge was in the water during the historic storm of October 1996 that drenched Gorham with about 18 inches of rain. Mosher said the water main ruptured at the bridge.
The bridge is 100 feet long and 27½ wide between the rails. The new bridge could be widened to match the width of its highway approaches but the bridge centerline would remain the same.
The state plans to minimize right-of-way impacts on abutters. A neighbor, Tim Boynton, was concerned about environmental impacts of the project.
MDOT will be required to receive “all kinds of environmental permits,” Eaton said.
The final design and permitting of the bridge is expected in 2019. Another public meeting will be held in November this year.
For more information, Eaton can be reached at 215-5729.
Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or email [email protected]