MOUNT DESERT — Babson Creek bridge isn’t falling down, but it is showing its age — it was built in 1949 — and needs to be replaced, according to the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT).
The project, which will take about five months to complete, is tentatively scheduled to start in November 2021.
The short bridge is on Route 198 less than one-tenth of a mile from the intersection with Route 102 in Somesville. Babson Creek flows into Somes Harbor just south of the bridge.
Every bridge in the state is inspected every two years and is rated on a scale of one to nine, with nine being a brand new bridge. The bridge over Babson Creek currently has a rating of four, according to Andrew Lathe, project manager with the DOT’s bridge program.
“That’s about as low as we like it to get,” he said at an Aug. 15 public meeting on the bridge project at Town Hall in Northeast Harbor.
“If it goes lower than that, we start looking at posting the bridge [with weight limits]. We’re at the point with this bridge that it’s time to replace it, and we don’t want it to go any longer.”
Lathe said the state has already allocated the $1.7 million the project is expected to cost. The preliminary design work is to be done this fall and winter. The current schedule calls for the design to be finalized in the first part of 2021 and for the project to be put out to bid that summer. Lathe said public input would be sought as design and planning proceed.
A key issue is how to handle traffic during removal of the current bridge and construction of the new one.
Lathe said that, whenever possible, the DOT prefers to detour traffic onto other roads, but that does not appear to be feasible in the case of the Babson Creek bridge project.
“We probably would be looking at a temporary bridge,” he said.
A temporary bridge would be built alongside the one being replaced, which likely would mean encroaching on private property on either side of the creek.
One lot abutting the creek on the upstream side of the bridge is owned by the Community School of Mount Desert Island, the other by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Residential properties are on the downstream side.
A one-lane temporary bridge would require less encroachment on private land than a two-lane bridge, but it would require traffic lights or flaggers and would cause some traffic back-ups.
The project would also involve the temporary relocation of utilities. A sewer main runs along the upstream side of the bridge.