FORT KENT – Progress on the International Bridge in Fort Kent is significantly ahead of schedule, said Fort Kent Town Manager Don Guimond at the town council meeting on Monday, May 14.
The Maine Department of Transportation and New Brunswick Department of Transportation are working in collaboration to provide a thorough inspection of the existing bridge and to provide remedial work to ensure the bridge remains safe for use through the next two and a half years of construction on the new bridge, said Guimond. The MDOT is taking the lead on this part of the construction project.
Although officials have tentatively scheduled the remedial work for the first week in June, Guimond said it is more likely that the construction will begin in the second week of June. This is to avoid conflict with transportation of fertilizer across the border. Officials anticipate no more than a week’s worth of traffic disruption.
“That may change, but it’s what they’re shooting for,” Guimond said. Weather may affect the extent of traffic disruption.
Depending on the outcome of the final inspection of the existing bridge, officials anticipate significant disruption of truck traffic during that weeklong period, in which the bridge is closed to all truck traffic, and some disruption of passenger vehicle traffic, in which the bridge is closed to both trucks and cars.
Because the construction will involve impacts to the levee’s footprint, the town will soon reroute ATV and pedestrian traffic on the levee, commonly known as the town dike, onto Main Street.
Traffic on the levee will detour onto Main Street from the American Legion Hall and U.S. Customs building, and will reunite with the existing ATV trail between the old Riverhouse building and Dead River’s property, said Guimond.
The closure of that section of the ATV trail is anticipated to last until the end of the year, and possibly into the early months of next year, he said.
“It will be dependent on weather and how construction goes,” said Guimond.
He said the contractor will place some fencing around the Customs building to ensure any cross border traffic stays within the authorized areas. The Army Corps of Engineer needs to formally approve revisions to the contractor’s emergency operations plan before the bulk of the construction project can commence. In the meantime, the contractor is placing fencing and working on storm drains, said Guimond.
“Hopefully, they’ll receive everything this week,” he said.
Guimond said the contractors and engineers involved with the project have a particular challenge. Beyond working solely with what they are most familiar, i.e. bridges and highways, they are also working on a levee, which brings a different set of requirements to the table.
“Any work within the footprint of the levee means they have to rebuild the levee,” he said. “At that point, they are building a levee, not a bridge.”
Guimond said the weather has helped during this phase of the project. The Canadian side of the project, which has been in construction for a couple of months, is approximately 90 percent complete.
“Things are looking good,” he said. However, the project progress could change and even fall behind with a run of poor weather.
Two cranes are in the water now, and the third will be in place shortly, pending receipt of all permits.
The project managers hope to have all piers and abutments erected prior to the removal of the temporary trestle currently only on the Canadian side this winter. If this is completed, the contractor will leave the trestle out, saving a significant amount of time.
Guimond anticipates that the project will create little traffic disruption. Guimond said he anticipates something similar to the traffic disruption caused by setting up the crane that can been seen near the America’s First Mile monument on Main Street, when the concrete and some other materials are delivered to the construction site.
“It shouldn’t be hours on end,” he said.
The approach to the bridge is a separate contract that officials have yet to award. Engineers are still developing those plans.
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