Rebirth of a Waterway
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — As per contract, bridge de-construction crews provided a passable channel for boaters on the Tuesday before Memorial Day weekend.
In less than three days, that part of the old bridge was removed and the waterway under the new bridge opened wide — and tall.
Since then, water recreationalists have been taking advantage of the no-hassle travel along the channel between Long Lake and Brandy Pond.
During the week of the Fourth of July, even more people will pass under the Bay of Naples Bridge. For many, it will be the first time. At the same time, thousands of vehicles will pass over the new bridge on or around Independence Day.
The Bay of Naples Bridge was designed and built to serve a two-fold purpose — expediting traffic over it and allowing a fluid flow of the boaters and water recreationalists under it, according to the state employee who designed the concrete arch bridge that has an 80-foot-long span.
Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) Design Engineer Jeff Folsom commented recently on how the new bridge creates convenience for water travelers.
“I think, overall, for your average boater that situation is much improved. No waiting for the thing to open. It is a lot more free-flowing than it had been,” Folsom said during a phone interview on Thursday.
“We were shooting for 12½ feet clearance, which accommodates most boat traffic. Your pontoon boats, your party boats can pass under. Horizontally, there is more room,” he said, adding the old bridge had no clearance unless it swung open.
“What we have now is the best possible solution for a fixed bridge,” he said.
Folsom said he attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in May; and while he was visiting Naples, he struck up a conversation with Dan Allen. Folsom knew Allen from the once weekly Causeway Restoration Committee (CRC) meetings.
“He agreed we achieved pretty much what we were going for: the boating clearance, both horizontally and vertically,” Folsom said.
In early June, Allen, the owner of Causeway Marina, reported that his customers who rent slips have been pleased with the new bridge — with the improved water travel, and also with the aesthetics as they pass below the bridge.
Folsom, too, commented that he was impressed when he actually laid eyes on the Bay of Naples Bridge.
“It is always great to see something go from what you put on paper to in the real world,” Folsom said of his impressions of the concrete arch bridge.
“I thought Wyman and Simpson did an excellent job,” he said.
Wyman and Simpson Inc., was awarded the job as the general contractor for the MDOT project, in September 2010. Construction on the bridge itself ramped up in mid-September 2011, after the swing bridge was closed, allowing work to be completed immediately north of the old bridge.
“Our guys out in the field, Craig and the staff, did a good job out there,” Folsom said.
The MDOT project to replace the bridge and revamp the Causeway currently costs $9.2 million.
The Town of Naples will be responsible for $405,000 of the bill; and the CRC has provided the community with many fundraisers to reach that goal.
“The Causeway Restoration Committee was pretty active once we got the plans. They made a few adjustments; but, those were for the better,” Folsom said.
“I am really pleased, really happy, to have been a part of it,” Folsom said.
During the six weeks since the bridge opened — in the peripheral of the people passing in their vehicles, demolition crews with Wyman and Simpson have continued to remove pieces of the old bridge.
On Wednesday (June 27) a colossal chunk of green metal sat in an industrial-sized garbage bin. For two weeks, the counterweight to the swing bridge had proven difficult to budge. On Wednesday, the crew unearthed it, according to Maine Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Craig Hurd.
“The concrete in between the girders” made the bridge piece more difficult to remove, Hurd said.
The piece — that was staged to leave Naples on Friday — was part of the superstructure of the bridge, he said.
“Basically, when you are removing an old bridge, some pieces come out harder than others,” he said.
“They had to spend longer to break it apart,” he said.
This week, crews will take only the state holiday off, and resume work the remainder of the week, because only a few pieces, including the abutments and the turntable of the 1954 bridge, remain, Hurd said.
Local resident and businesswoman Carmen Caron was the person who won the ribbon-cutting day raffle, and rode in the last vehicle to drive over the old bridge.
“I was thinking, ‘I am glad this is my final ride over the bridge. I won’t be waiting on either side of it,’ ” said Caron.
As the owner of New England Electric, located along Route 114, a fixed bridge is the answer to a summer time problem: traffic back-ups, Caron said.
“For me personally being in business, I would look at my watch and think, ‘It is 10 a.m. I cannot go to the mail right now because of bridge opening,’” she said.
“Employees were always late. They were stuck on the other side of the bridge,” Caron said.
“I am just one business in town. Just think of all the businesses tied up on one side of the bridge or another during the summer months. For example, P&K (Sand & Gravel) with a load of cement waiting 30 minutes,” she explained.
Her husband, Selectman Bob Caron Sr. drove the vintage vehicle over the bridge — one last time. Bob served on the CRC.
“When we drove across the old bridge (on May 18) Bob and I were on the same wavelength. I said, ‘Look what they’ve done down here, it’s absolutely beautiful. ’ ” she said.
“I am not going to miss the old swing bridge at all,” Caron said.