Residents remark on ceremony, bridge

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — On Friday, folks experienced the bliss and necessity of brand-new infrastructure and pristine pavement.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, that first flow of traffic began to travel over the Bay of Naples Bridge and the slightly altered section of Route 302 that crosses it.

The project — six years in the making, if the public-input and funding stages are included — had its ground-breaking in October 2010. A month earlier, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) project had been awarded to general contractor Wyman and Simpson, Inc.

The primary goal was to replace the 58-year-old swing bridge. Another aspect of the project was to re-create the Causeway so it had the allure of a destination zone.

“Now, people will stop because they want to, not because they are stopped in traffic on the Causeway,” MDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note said during a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

According to MDOT Resident Engineer Craig Hurd, the cost of the concrete arch bridge alone is about $2 million.

The entire project has been estimated at $9.2 million, he said.

Hurd, whose office has been located on the Naples Causeway for the past two years, said in the final week before the bridge unveiling, there was an enormous push to finish putting in the curbs, installing the guard rail and stripping the nouveau roadway.

The bridge opening event was pulled off perfectly with a little help from the sun, he said.

“The weather was good. Everything went well,” Hurd said on Tuesday. “At the beginning when we had the ground-breaking, everyone was excited it had finally started, but apprehensive. We had to get from point A to point B. Now, they (residents) see what they (the contractors) built.”

Residents remarked on Friday’s opening ceremony, as well as the construction that had been completed so far in Naples.

“This town did a good job. That was a beautiful ceremony. My grandson, Tyler Plante, 11, of North Yarmouth, rode in the passenger seat of my 1955 Ford Station Wagon. He was taken out of school. The teacher was very reasonable when she found out what he was doing during his time away from school. It was the end of an era when we realized we went over the old bridge. We are very pleased with the new bridge,” said Sonny Berman, a Naples resident and business owner.

“You know what I liked to see is when they put the trucks with the aerial ladders and hung the American flag down over the street. That was really neat. It was fun to see all of our friends. It was a very local event. They did a great job with that bridge. It couldn’t have been easy for those guys to work in the weather. They did a great job,” said Pat Berman, a Naples resident.

“I’ve been awestruck by the entire process. It has gone so smoothly. It is actually an elegant design — being an artist, I appreciate that. One of the highlights for me was in March or April, when they started pulling the tiles away from the bridge, and you could see how beautiful it was going to be. Friday’s event was a culmination of a lot of hard work. It was impressive to see a great turnout of the town’s people and the camaraderie people showed by showing up and saying, ‘This is great,’” said Rob Brand, a Naples resident and business owner.

“It went very well I thought. Yes, I enjoyed the whole thing. It was pretty weird looking at the last car going over the bridge and knowing that was it: The last car over the old bridge and never again. Now, people are enjoying the new road,” said Dan Allen, resident and business owner.

“I was personally impressed with the crowds, and also the happy and proud faces. I loved to see the people scramble to the new bridge rail to watch the old cars go over the bridge, and then also see the happy faces as the band came around and led the new cars across the bridge. I hitched a ride on the back of the antique fire truck, and got to stand on the back gripping the rail like the firemen used to do in the olden days. It’s something I have always wanted to do. I am taking the ride on the back of a fire truck off my ‘bucket list’ now,” said Derik Goodine, Naples Town Manager.

“Overall, it was a terrific day. We had calm sailing with the TV news crews, and had live coverage of the event. The (Lake Region High School) band was great. One of the moving moments I had was when my daughters sang — they did an excellent job. The crowd of people that was there was really a terrific showing, a terrific showing of support. Everyone was elated. It was touching to hear all the positives. The attitude has continued on. I am still getting stopped at the Post Office, or wherever I am; and people are expressing how wonderful the event was and how happy they are with the bridge. The frequent comment I get is: It seems so natural like that is where the bridge should have always been,” said Bob Neault, resident, business owner and chairman of the Causeway Renovation Committee.

To see live footage of the Bay of Naples’ ribbon-cutting ceremony, go to the Lakes Region Television website.

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