Local residents comment on Causeway look

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Dawn Merriam, a Naples resident with both business and personal ties to the community, said she and her family have already appreciated the changes on the Causeway.

“Some of the things that I am already beginning to enjoy are the new sidewalks that are going down the complete length of (Route) 302 so there is ample space to walk and be safe,” Merriam said on Tuesday.

Merriam added that she and her husband, Sam, and their pre-school-age daughter can get their exercise; and all the while, she has the peace of mind of not having to worry about dodging traffic from the safety of the pedestrian boardwalks.

“I am really looking forward to less traffic backing up, and having more people be able to get to Naples without being afraid of coming to Naples because of not wanting to be stuck on the Causeway” like happened in the past with the swing bridge openings, she said.

Excitement has been swirling around this community in preparation for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Bay of Naples Bridge. That event is slated to take place on May 18, Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the bridge and wrapping up with a catered meal at the Village Green.

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) infrastructure project is estimated to cost between $8.9 and $9.1 million. The job was awarded to general contractor Wyman and Simpson Inc. in September 2010; and, groundbreaking began shortly after Labor Day weekend.

As the May date for the town-wide event approaches, not only have a bridge and a roadway become something real, and no longer imagined or illustrated in engineers’ sketches, but also, aesthetically-pleasing details like the handrails and tinted, textured concrete have taken shape on the Causeway.

As residents of Naples who own Great Northern Docks along Route 302, the Merriams have seen the progress unfold on the Causeway. Sam Merriam said he has also participated in the public meetings for the construction project.

“The highlight for me was seeing the railing come together because these were ideas brought out at a meeting” and incorporated into the final product, Merriam said.

“They applied some of my ideas, the committee did. I was pleased. It was quite nice and (now the railing) will perform well for the town,” he said.

During the wintertime meetings, he expressed his concerns regarding the cost of the amount of the galvanized steel hand railing in the original plan as well as long-term maintenance of the industrial paint on the railing.

“I had a concern for the care and durability,” Merriam said.

The final product omitted a third row of railing and put in a concrete base — at a lower cost, Merriam said.

Also, another concern that was addressed at the meeting was a public safety issue: People sitting on the flat top of the squared-off railing and risking an accidental fall into the lake.

Merriam said he had suggested — by turning the square railing so an angle, instead of a flat edge, is facing upward, so that the railing would be less sitter-friendly.

But, for Merriam, the icing on the cake was how the handrails were attractive in a way that complemented the natural scenery.

“We see the view, whether or not the bridge looks good, whether or not the railing looks good,” he said.

“But, when you are in a car and driving or walking on the sidewalk, you are looking at the view and appreciating the look of the railing,” which blends in, Merriam said.

“No one wanted the railing to be too obvious. If it is too basic or doesn’t have design appeal, it would jump out at you as being ugly or unattractive, and no one needed it to take over the view,” Merriam said.

Quite a bit earlier — prior to the start of construction, Merriam said he had concerns about serious traffic back-ups during the construction phase of the project, but he was surprised at how quickly the traffic was able to start rolling again.

“I run a business here in Naples and I had a real concern about how the traffic problems from the construction might impede on customers getting to my business. So, two years ago, we opened up a satellite store in Windham,” he said.

“It wasn’t really that bad. Once we got into the construction, certainly there were times when the traffic was backed up quite a ways. But, there weren’t any long delays,” he said.

“They got traffic cleared up quickly, and it was never backed up for long,” Merriam said.

The couple hopes that the word of smoother sailing for traffic across the new bridge will be a boon to business-owners — as people get in the vehicles and drive to the Naples Causeway to see for themselves.

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