BANGOR — It’ll be a few months yet before traffic has to be rerouted because of construction of the new bridge connecting Bangor and Brewer, but work is already under way on the structure that will replace the oldest of three bridges connecting the two cities. Many things have to be done before the bridge will go up from the end of Oak Street in Bangor, across the Penobscot River to Brewer.
“One of the things that had to be done was the relocation of a piece of the Penobscot interceptor sewer,” City Engineer James Ring said Friday. “That picks up virtually everything on the east side” of the city.
It was necessary to move the line because it passed “right through where the first abutment would be,” Ring explained. “It sounds like a very simple thing,” he said, but the work took a couple of weeks.
The engineer acknowledged that the project was something like doing a heart bypass on a 27-inch pipe, even as the sewer line continued to be used by thousands of people.
The contractor for the bridge project is Reed and Reed, and the subcontractor for the earthwork is H.E. Sargent.
Ring said that work would continue over the winter and would include excavation for abutment No. 1, “the first structure on the Bangor side.”
Bob Zimmerman of Abbot, engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, said that about 10 people were working on the project Friday.
“Reed and Reed crews are working on abutment 1 and pier 1,” he said. “They’re excavating, getting ready to start the footing forms.”
Crews are working on a steel coffer dam to support the excavation, digging a hole next to the railroad tracks.
Zimmerman, who lives in Abbot, expects to be working at the Bangor site for about two years.
Work over the winter will focus on the bridge, with “approach work” resuming in the spring.
“Traffic rerouting will begin around the first of April,” Ring said, and people using Exchange Street may have noticed that the fixtures for the temporary traffic signal at Exchange and Hancock streets have already been hung off to one side.
Also around April 1, the section of Washington Street that runs between the end of Oak Street and the end of Exchange in front of Penobscot Plaza will be closed for the duration of the project.
The closing of part of Washington Street will remove traffic from about 80 percent of the construction area and will give contractors space to store equipment and materials. Without the closing, the project probably would have taken four months longer and cost an additional $500,000.
One alternative originally considered would have opened all of Hancock Street to two-way traffic during the closing of part of Washington Street, but the city of Bangor proposed what officials hope will be a simpler solution — adding two-way traffic only to that section of Hancock which runs from Oak Street down to Exchange Street.
A tentative opening date for the new bridge has been set for June 14, 1997, and the completion date should be Oct. 18, 1997.