KITTERY, Maine — A major construction project on a busy secondary road to Interstate 95 will begin Wednesday as the Route 1 Bypass bridge replacement gets under way.
Kittery Police Chief Theodor Short urged all motorists to be aware of the project, as there may be traffic backups at certain times while the project is under way.
Detours will be clearly marked with digital message boards as well as orange detour signs, and Short asks that everyone from shipyard workers to tourists and local traffic pay attention to them.
Northbound and southbound traffic on the Bypass will be rerouted onto the Memorial Circle for 35 days starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday. By the end of that time, a new, prefabricated bridge will be erected and ready for traffic, although workers will remain on site until the fall.
On Wednesday only, traffic on Route 236 will be rerouted all day starting at 8 a.m.
“We’re anticipating it’s not going to be a huge traffic impact for what we’re doing,” said John Auger, project manager for the Maine Department of Transportation.
The $2.8 million project involves installing a wider bridge than is currently there, as well as drainage work on Route 236. The project is being funded through a special federal transportation grant that is given to states to implement innovative solutions to highway projects.
According to Leanne Timberlake from MDOT, the Bypass bridge was chosen as one of the projects because it is important for this bridge to be built quickly for several reasons.
For one, the Route 1 Bypass is often used as the secondary alternative to Interstate 95 year-round, and certainly during the busy summer months.
“We wanted to disrupt traffic as little as possible. Kittery has been through a lot lately, with the building of the Memorial Bridge,” Timberlake said.
Further, the MDOT wanted the Bypass project completed before it begins the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement, set to begin sometime early next year.
Auger said the project poses “challenges,” as there is substantial ledge at the site. Moreover, the precast pieces may or may not fit perfectly together.
“Think of a large Lincoln Logs set,” he said.
General contractor Wyman & Simpson Inc. has significant money riding on the timely completion of the project, he said. Under terms of the contract, it will be charged $10,000 a day for every day over 35 days, and will save $10,000 a day for every day under.
Route 236 will be closed to all traffic from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 8 a.m. Thursday. The time was chosen to accommodate morning shift traffic at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Short said Route 236 was closed last week for five or six hours in preparation for this week’s work, and it provided a preview of what could be in store.
“We immediately encountered problems with people making U-turns on the Bypass,” he said.
He said that on Wednesday, police officers will be stationed on the Bypass to make sure that people don’t try to make U-turns again.
As for the 35-day period, he said he expects an increase in traffic from locals and shipyard workers on Wilson and Goodwin roads in Kittery and Eliot, and Route 103 in Eliot. And he does expect that, depending on the day and time, there could be traffic delays onto Memorial Circle around the site of the bridge work.
“This is peak volume for us. The potential is there for delays,” he said. “Whether it happens or not, we’ll see.”