Red Iron Bridge status

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

FRYEBURG HARBOR — The Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation has committed to sending one of his senior bridge engineers to attend a public forum here on the status of the historic Red Iron Bridge, according to State Senator Dave Hastings (R-Fryeburg).

Sen. Hastings said he would know no later than today, Sept. 23, on what date the public forum will be held.

“This is a positive development,” Hastings said of the upcoming public forum, “and we will do the best we can to make everyone aware of it. I hope to have a date set by tomorrow or the next day, at the very latest,” Hastings said Tuesday night.

The Red Iron Bridge, located near the intersection of McNeil and Harbor Roads here, is scheduled for demolition later this fall, after the repair of the Charles River Bridge is completed. Town officials and many local area residents have vowed to take whatever action is necessary, in order to save the Red Iron Bridge.

Sen. Hastings said last week that he had contacted Governor John Baldacci’s office, in an attempt to have the MDOT reconsider the scheduled removal of the Red Iron Bridge.

“I spoke with both the Governor’s Office and Commissioner (David) Cole today,” Sen. Hastings said, Tuesday evening, “and what the Governor’s Office would like us to do, and what the Commissioner’s office has agreed to do, is send a senior bridge engineer here to a public forum for the state to try to prove its case,” Hastings said.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Cole and some of his staff toured the Red Iron Bridge and surrounding area roads with town officials here, but still held fast to the Department’s original decision to demolish the Red Iron Bridge, saying it was due to the poor condition of the bridge itself, as well as the cost of maintenance. MDOT engineers determined it was more cost effective to repair the Charles River Bridge and demolish the nearby Red Iron Bridge.

“I don’t have a date for the public forum yet,” said Hastings Sept. 21. “Commissioner Cole will be meeting with his staff tomorrow to determine a date for it, and I told him we need to have that (meeting) date sooner than later.”

“We’ll do the best we can, as soon as we can, to get the word out,” Sen. Hastings said.

“This is going to be an opportunity for Fryeburg people who are interested to challenge them (MDOT) on their engineering decision and their economic decision, and I really hope everyone who has an interest in this will get out to this meeting.” Hastings stated. “I don’t have any commitment from MDOT, as to the date of the bridge removal. At worst, it would be demolished in November. But, it’s not going to be before this public meeting. I think that’s a given.”

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