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7/24/2013 2:00:00 PM
State To Present New South Bristol Bridge Design
By J.W. Oliver

The Maine Department of Transportation will present its new design for the South Bristol bridge at a meeting at South Bristol School Thursday, Aug. 1.

A public notice about the meeting says the department will present a "unique new design" that meets the goal of building an "aesthetically pleasing," low-maintenance, reliable bridge while minimizing construction impacts.

A brief question-and-answer period will follow and the department will set up "breakout stations" for "individual viewings, discussions, questions, answers and comments."

A year ago, at the last public meeting between the state and South Bristol residents, Maine Department of Transportation Project Manager Steve Bodge said the state would break ground in summer 2013 despite a petition from residents unhappy with the design.

A group of South Bristol property owners commissioned an alternative bridge design, however, prompting the state to take a second look at its plans.

The Department of Transportation, after a review of the alternative design, announced plans to develop a new design with elements of both its original design and the privately commissioned alternative.

The department also parted ways with the Albany, N.Y. engineering firm Clough, Harbour & Associates LLP, the contractor behind the original design, in favor of Hardesty & Hanover LLP of New York City.

According to a July 9 letter from Maine Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Joyce Noel Taylor to Miguel Rosales, the Boston architect behind the alternative design, "the department switched design firms to find a better fit for the community."

The letter also appeals to Rosales and his clients, the South Bristol property owners, to support the new design.

"We also hope you can acknowledge at the [Aug. 1] meeting the extraordinary effort the department is making to find a compromise between aesthetics and engineering," Taylor said in the letter.

"We need to finalize key engineering decisions and start the detailed engineering design in order to start construction in 2014," Taylor said. "This is a critical milestone as the current bridge is unreliable for marine traffic."

Taylor credited Rosales with leading the department "to a different design that is a much better fit for the site."

A 1933 swing bridge currently carries traffic over The Gut and frequently opens to allow boats to pass through the narrow channel. The bridge has had several failures in recent years.

The bridge occasionally sticks in the open position, which disrupts vehicle traffic, including traffic from the fire station on Rutherford Island to the mainland. More often, the bridge cannot open, which disrupts marine traffic in and out of the busy harbor.

The meeting is open to the public and will start at 6 p.m. in the gym.

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