Nose to the grindstone: Crew paves for Fair traffic

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

BIG CONSTRUCTION PUSH — These are busy times at the Naples Causeway as construction of a new bridge and paving of Route 302 continue. Craig Hurd (above), resident engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation’s $8.95-million project, says more paving will be done after the Fryeburg Fair. (De Busk Photo)

NAPLES — This week, the most obvious construction activity took place on the 2,000-foot stretch of dirt road between Freedom Café and the Naples Village Green.

That section of Route 302 needed to be paved before taking on the tires of the Fryeburg Fair traffic in early October, according to Craig Hurd, of the Maine State Transportation Department (MDOT.)

“We pushed to get it paved before the fair because if we don’t it could be a mess,” Hurd said.

It is more difficult to maintain a dirt road when it rains, he said. The layer of pavement will also keep down the dust — one of the biggest complaints he hears.

Vehicles headed to the Fryeburg Fair won’t have to bounce along a section of dirt road.

Paving crews from the subcontractor Rampart Bituminous LLC blocked one lane of traffic on Monday and Tuesday as a bulldozer grated the road in preparation for the paving job.

Hurd explained that a global positioning system (GPS) mounted on the front of the bulldozer tells an on-board computer at what level the blade needs to be for each pass.

“It’s really amazing technology,” he said.

Already, crews laid and buried 2,000 feet of underground water pipes to the Naples Fire Station.

“They finished that in two weeks,” he said, adding the pipes are located six feet underground in the middle of Route 302.

On Wednesday, the crews paved one lane, let it cool, re-routed traffic there, and paved the other lane, he said.

“After the fair, we’ll add another 1 1/2 inches of pavement and finish the shoulders,” Hurd said.

Hurd is the resident engineer for MDOT’s $8.95-million project to build the Bay of Naples Bridge, renovate the Causeway and improve Route 302 by paving and putting in crosswalks.

On any given workday, Hurd walks miles to check up on progress of the three-year project, which began on Columbus Day 2010.

Where this week’s paving took place, Hurd has found his favorite tree. He thinks the trunk of a crab apple and the trunk of another kind of apple tree wrapped around each other so the branches appear to bear two types of fruit.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Causeway, the view from the 55-year-old Naples Swing Bridge reveals that “the fruits of labor” are taking shape.

The base that will hold the bridge’s arch is being completed underfoot with the help of a crane, Vibro Hammer, and pile-driving hammer.

On Monday, Hurd commented how peculiar it seemed that on an 80-degree day on the Causeway, there were only a handful of people around, two-thirds of the businesses had closed for the season, and the traffic had been lighter than usual.

“It seems like a ghost town,” he said.

In addition, contractor Wyman & Simpson Inc. had sent many of its crew members to other sites, where construction projects were facing an October deadline for completion.

Wyman & Simpson, which has been in business since 1924, recently won the 2010 Build Maine Award after finishing construction on the Greenville Municipal Wharf.

Many of those company employees will be called back to the Causeway project sometime after Columbus Day.

Hurd said the most important projects are getting done in record speed. However, some others — like replacing wooden railings with metal ones on the boardwalk — will be scheduled after the fair and when crews return. Soon, Causeway construction will resume the busy-as-bee levels it reached before Memorial Day weekend.

From what was completed during the summer season, it has become easier to envision what the boardwalk will look like next spring, he said. A seawall, which was built this spring and summer, follows the shoreline of Long Lake on the Causeway.

Walking along the boardwalk, a person is perched above the water; and in the construction zone, the dirt walkway descends until the ground is below water level with lake waves hitting the seawall.

This will be the pathway that travels under the bridge, allowing people to go between the Long Lake and Brandy Pond sides of the Causeway without crossing Route 302.

This spring when the top layer of pavement is placed, permanent crosswalks will be striped where some of the temporary ones were located this summer. In addition, new crosswalks will be put in between the Naples Public Beach and Naples Village Green, in front of the Naples Public Library, and near Freedom Café, he said.

Foundation for the bridge

The September afternoon brings a surge of traffic with an array of out-of-state plates. Below the rumble of tires that are crossing the bridge, a new foundation has been built.

Twin abutments sit parallel on the west and east side of the channel between Long Lake and Brandy Pond. The west abutment is about four steps ahead of the east one, as far as construction goes, Hurd said.

Rebar in the shape of a rectangle sticks out from the west abutment. Workers drove piles into the ground 80 feet before reaching bedrock, or ledge, he said.

For the east abutment, the piles were driven between 40 and 50 feet down to touch bedrock.

“It sits on bedrock. It isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

The bottom of the concrete abutment starts 17 feet down. After the water is pumped out of the east abutment, nine feet of concrete will be poured to create a seal. The footing will be between four and five feet below the water, he said. After the two abutments are completed, two cranes will be required to lift the arch into place, according to Jeff Simpson, of Wyman & Simpson.

Concrete will be poured into a form, the outer layer of the form will be removed, and then the concrete arch will be set into place.

Bridge construction crews will have a slightly drier workspace when water levels drop from the autumn-time opening of the Songo River Lock, which allows some water to drain from Long Lake, Brandy Pond and the Songo River.

The Lock is opened to create storage room for spring run-off; and typically, it takes all winter to see a noticeable drop in the water level, Simpson said.

The deadline to finish the Bay of Naples Bridge is May 2012, according to Hurd. As outlined in the MDOT bid award, the current swing bridge becomes the property of Wyman & Simpson. The swing bridge operator’s booth also belongs to Wyman & Simpson — now that the bridge stopped opening to boat traffic, he said.

“I heard they were going to keep it where it is and use it as a warming hut. It gives good protection from the wind,” Hurd said.

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