Bid goodbye to the old bridge; lane closures on the horizon
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — Before the morning ended, the final remnants of the Naples Swing Bridge were removed from the waterway.
Since late May’s opening of the Bay of Naples Bridge, a handful of construction workers have been focused mostly on the demolition of the old bridge. It has been a process that spanned less than four months.
On Sept. 10, a sparse crew — with the help from a dive team — pulled from the water the 20-plus piles that once guarded the former swing bridge from marine vessel damage.
Although this part of the job could have been executed sooner, keeping the piles in place all summer prohibited boats from entering the construction zone, according to W&S Superintendent Jeff Simpson.
“The piles kept the boats away from the demo work,” he said.
Last Monday, Simpson manned the controls of the Volvo excavator that lifted up the wooden piles after the diver had cut them with a hydraulic chainsaw.
Simpson sat in the driver’s seat for this task not because he wanted to savor the completion of the bridge demolition, but simply to get the job done.
“I just didn’t have another operator that day,” he said, adding he steps into the role of heavy equipment operator “off and on again.”
“I don’t think anyone was too excited” about the last pieces of the bridge being hauled away, he said.
“It’s just part of the job,” Simpson said.
The removal of the last nine piles took approximately twenty minutes. Sometimes, it took a couple tugs on the part of the excavator bucket to detach the piles. However, the final three piles were lifted out of the channel in one piece.
A bystander wondered aloud where the seagulls would perch with the piles gone.
According to Maine Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Craig Hurd, “The wooden piles were part of the fender system, (which) is there like bumpers so people didn’t crash into the old bridge.”
“Every part of the bridge is removed now,” Hurd said.
Last week as the swing bridge components fell to the scrap heap, new concrete was placed on the middle retaining wall section facing the Causeway Marina. According to Hurd, the contractor’s crews placed 26 cubic yards of concrete at that time.
On Tuesday morning, workers completed the last 21 feet of the retaining wall.
Both Simpson and Hurd confirmed that more concrete placements were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
“Yep, we are building the footing for the architectural wall today. Because there is no sea wall, we need to put footing in to put the decorative wall on top of that,” Hurd said.
The MDOT contract does not include the installation of an amphitheater on the southwest side of the new bridge. Nonetheless, crews will lay the foundation for an amphitheater.
“Sod and loam — we might be doing that by the end of September, or the beginning of October. We will be building the base for the amphitheater — the stones, and the terrace, and stuff like that,” Hurd said.
Now that the state and general contractor have marked off the to-do list the concrete placement for the last 21 feet of the retaining wall, future tasks may call for short lane closures.
Starting this week through early October, there will be “minimal lane closures, but nothing major,” Hurd said.
On the horizon: Putting surface pavement on the area from Merced’s at Brandy Pond to Sun Sports+.
“We are going to be ready for it (paving) just about the time the Fryeburg Fair starts,” he said.
“We are going to get into trouble this year — if we close down traffic on Columbus Day. We did that in 2010, and had traffic backed up to Bridgton,” said Hurd.
He clarified that he was not exaggerating because there were complaints of traffic stopped near the Lake Region High School, which is located on the Naples-Bridgton town lines.
“They (the community) knew we were here after that day — let me put it that way. We won’t do that again,” he said.
The resident engineer predicted that following the Fryeburg Fair the lane closures will cause more of a wait for drivers. Commuters might want to find an alternate route when the last stretch of Route 302 gets the top layer of pavement.
“After the fair, we will hopefully pave the Causeway and across the bridge and that’s when traffic can get backed up,” Hurd said.