February 8

State plans to have unstable New Sharon bridge removed in March

Selectmen voted to let the state tear down the 98-year-old bridge, one of the last of its kind, because they fear it could collapse any day.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

NEW SHARON — The state expects to tear down New Sharon historic iron bridge in March, aiming to remove the crumbling structure before high water in the spring.

click image to enlarge

Unsafe: The iron bridge spanning the Sandy River is seen in 1916 during its construction. The bridge is expected to be torn down by March 21.

Contributed photo

A Freeport contractor, CPM Constructors, won the bid at $346,000 to remove the retired bridge, which stands parallel to U.S. Route 2 and spans the Sandy River

The Maine Department of Transportation department told the town in November that the Sandy River bridge is in imminent danger of falling into the river, and said the state will pay to have it removed.

“They felt it was unstable,” said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the transportation department. “So much so, that they felt if they let it go any longer there was a risk of collapse in the very near future.”

The bridge, once the chief link between two parts of the town, has been unused for decades. The department told the Board of Selectmen that if the town had rejected department’s the offer and the bridge collapsed, residents would have been responsible for cleanup costs and any damage downstream from the collapse.

CPM Vice President Peter Krakoff said the company expects to start in the next few weeks and complete the project March 21.

The bridge was built in 1916 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the last remaining bridges of its type of construction and the only one of its arch design on the state registry.

“It’s a very old truss, one of the original trusses of its kind,” Talbot said.

A few residents had asked to wait and vote on removing the bridge at the annual Town Meeting, but Selectman Forrest Bonney said they didn’t have time to wait and couldn’t risk the liability of it collapsing at the town’s expense.

Road Commissioner John Pond told the residents that the town can’t throw its money into restoring a defunct bridge when it hardly has the money to pay for needed road work.

Previous efforts to restore the bridge failed because of a lack of funding. Selectmen estimated that repairing the bridge would cost at least $2 million.

The department inspected the bridge before making the offer to tear it down and found significant vertical cracking in the south abutment, leaving the bridge vulnerable to collapse into the river.

The bridge is now blocked off to people and traffic.

“It would be a serious safety hazard if anyone tried to use it,” Talbot said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252kschroeder@centralmaine.com
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