Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 9, 2019
Sidewalks? Parking? Committee tackles Falls Bridge decisions
An MDOT presentation included two options for Falls Bridge, a raised sidewalk or at-grade shoulders, at a May 6 meeting in Blue Hill.
by Anne Berleant
With the decision of what type of bridge will replace Falls Bridge behind them, the bridge advisory committee met to discuss parking, public access and sidewalks May 6 at town hall.
Maine Department of Transportation Project Manager Andrew Lathe and consultant Tim Cote detailed enhancements to the girder-style bridge set for an accelerated construction in 2021.
“We have some of the hard decisions behind us but sensitive issues to address,” facilitator Jim Schatz said.
The meeting also drew a dozen community members, some whose properties will be affected by the construction.
Lathe and Cote are still awaiting final evaluation of the replacement bridge by the state office of historic preservation. The bridge abuts three archaeological sites and mitigating impact of construction and preservation of archaeological artifacts are a factor.
But it was parking, sidewalks and public access on the agenda, with four of eight committee members present, discussing options presented by Cote.
Everyone agreed that pedestrians and kayakers will use the bridge regardless of ease of access.
“People will go there. You’re not going to stop them,” committee member John Chapman said.
The option for either four-foot, at-grade shoulders on both sides or a raised five-foot sidewalk on the Salt Pond side with a one-foot shoulder on the bay side raised safety issues. With travel lanes at 11 feet wide, for a total width of 29 to 30 feet, and a slightly flatter approach, increased speed by drivers drew concern, although Cote said, since people tend to drive slower in a confined area, the illusion of narrower lanes could be achieved through painting patterns on the shoulders.
At-grade shoulders would increase the risk to pedestrians, abutter Ann Luskey said. “I feel it’s safer to have a raised sidewalk, even though it probably impacts my property more.”
But a raised sidewalk would require the town to clear snow during winter and, as committee member Mike Astbury described it, would “lead to nowhere.”
Scott Miller suggested installing delineators to separate the road from its shoulders, an idea Cote said he would investigate.
Concerning parking, the roadside area on the Salt Pond side that cars currently use could be widened, with delineated spaces or not, or not be widened at all. Public access to the water, if constructed by MDOT, would have to meet American with Disabilities Act standards.
Brooklin Selectman and committee member Deborah Brewster noted that providing ADA-compliant access would make the site more of an attraction.
Miller asked whether public access was required—it is not, Lathe said—and whether the site could be restored with access as it now stands, a clamber down rocks to the water’s edge.
“I know you’ve got to do something but you don’t have to do everything,” Chapman noted.
Consensus leaned towards informal access, similar to the present site but no decisions were made.
“Tim and I are not walking away with specific resolutions but things to think about,” Lathe said.
A future meeting will be held to continue the discussion of design enhancements with the goal of completing the preliminary design by mid-summer.