Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 9, 2021
Falls Bridge closed to day traffic beginning April 19
Closure will be from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Beginning Monday, April 19, the Falls Bridge, located on Route 175, will be closed during the daytime to traffic for about four days, while New England Boring Contractors conducts geotechnical explorations of the site, according to Shawna Ambrose, Blue Hill town administrator.
“This work will require that the bridge be closed during daylight drilling operations, which will be between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.,” Ambrose said during the April 5 select board meeting. The Maine Department of Transportation “will be installing variable message boards starting Monday, April 12, to alert motorists to the bridge closure and detour route along Route 172. New England Boring Contractors will be setting up and removing the detour/bridge closure signage daily.”
Built in 1926, the Falls Bridge is one of two remaining rainbow arch bridges left in the state, according to the historicbridges.org website. The bridge carries Route 175 traffic between Blue Hill Harbor and Salt Pond, and is the most direct route into Brooklin and South Blue Hill. It will cost an estimated $8.9 million to replace the existing structure with an enhanced girder bridge in 2022, according to MDOT.
“The Falls Bridge in South Blue Hill has been determined by Maine Department of Transportation to be in need of major reconstruction or replacement,” according to information listed on the town’s website. “A committee of community members meets regularly with MDOT, examining the various issues involved in the decision-making process and providing input on behalf of the Town.”
Despite the historic and architectural significance of the bridge, MDOT and town officials decided that replacement, rather than rehabilitation, of the existing bridge made the most sense economically. The new bridge will have an estimated lifespan of 100 years, compared to 50 years if it were repaired.
In utilitarian terms, the girder bridge design provides “the safest structure for commuter and pedestrian use by removing the arch, lateral bracing and hangers; provided the lowest construction cost and construction risk; and provided the lowest cost for long-term inspection and maintenance,” according to a February 2019 MDOT press release.