RICHMOND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Construction crews reached a milestone in Richmond this week – the installed the final steel I-beam for the new Kennebec River bridge connecting the town to Dresden. Reed & Reed is doing the work, and according to the MDOT the company expects to have the $14.3 million, 1,478 foot span open before the end of the year. That's well ahead of the state's original construction schedule.
But while the Maine DOT says is cheering progress on the new bridge, the agency says there are many other old, worn out bridges around the state that also need to be replaced. Just this week, DOT engineers determined the Route 4-A bridge connecting Buxton and Hollis has worn out steel plates, called gusset plates. The state immediately posted a 10-ton weight limit on the bridge. That bridge was already scheduled to be replaced, starting next year, and the DOT's chief bridge engineer, John Buxton, says they are now deciding whether to rebuild some of the worn out pieces or leave the 10-ton limit in place until a new bridge is ready.
It's a sign of how big a problem the state faces with old bridges. Buxton says more than 50% of Maine's bridges are more than fifty years old. The Hollis-Buxton bridge and the existing Richmond bridge were both built in 1937. A similar design steel truss bridge between Topsham and Brunswick dates from the same era, and the state says there are others. But the DOT says there isn't enough money to replace them all, meaning they will need continuing inspections and repair, and potentially, more unexpected weight limits.