News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 4, 2017
Falls Bridge Advisory Committee to meet in May

by Anne Berleant

The newly formed Falls Bridge Advisory Committee has scheduled two meetings to be held upstairs in town hall on Monday, May 8, and Monday, May 22, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The eight-member committee, with Selectman Jim Schatz serving as facilitator, is the community voice as Maine Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration work toward a design of a major renovation or replacement for the bridge spanning the inlet from Blue Hill Harbor into Salt Pond on Route 175 in South Blue Hill.

The project, estimated to cost upward of $5 million, will be 80 percent federally funded and 20 percent state funded. Enhancements to the design proposed by the town would have to be locally funded, MDOT Senior Structural Engineer Mike Wight said at an August 5, 2015 public meeting. In the nearly two years since then, the process has become more complex.

Planning the design for the renovation or replacement of Falls Bridge began in 2014 and was delayed by archaeological digs and findings by the Maine Historical Preservation Commission and for environmental protection reasons.

“As we continued to uncover archaeological issues, environmental issues, we were forced to take a step back,” MDOT Project Manager Andrew Lathe told selectmen at a January 4 meeting that included MDOT program manager and engineer Wayne Frankhauser Jr., Federal Highway Administration Assistant Division manager Cheryl B. Martin and FHA Environmental Engineer Cassandra Chase.

How those findings will ultimately affect the design of the bridge and whether and where a temporary bridge will be constructed during the construction phase of the project will be shared as part of the advisory committee process, selectmen were told by the MDOT and FHA representatives, who will attend the Bridge Advisory Committee meetings.

The meetings are open to the public but are not public hearings, in that the public is not invited to speak throughout the meetings but only under “Public Comments” on the agenda.

The project, estimated to cost upward of $5 million, will be 80 percent federally funded and 20 percent state funded.