Summer’s end ushers in lane closures

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — During this summer, much of the Naples Bridge and Causeway construction has been completed out of the direct view of the public’s eye.

On Tuesday, construction crews were smack dab in the middle of Route 302 with a piece of heavy machinery responsible for the job of reclaiming the pavement on that major thoroughfare.

Some commuters may have been surprised when they were stuck in long lines of traffic — as the lane closures resumed this week, according to Craig Hurd, resident engineer with the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT).

“I heard there were some pretty long lines of traffic. There were some pretty good backups today,” Hurd said on Tuesday.

People were forewarned by digital signs on Route 302 that lane closures would be happening after Labor Day, he said.

“Hopefully, people read the signs. If they didn’t, they are stuck in traffic now,” he said.

After a summer of having both lanes of traffic open, some folks might have to readjust their driving routes to avoid delays.

Road closures along the Naples Causeway will occur from 6 a.m. until 5:30 or 6 p.m. In fact, road work and lane closures will coincide with the daylight hours, according to Hurd.

MDOT has an agreement with the Town of Naples to leave open both lanes of traffic from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

However, two lanes of traffic will be provided during the week of the Fryeburg Fair through Columbus Day, he said. The fair runs from Oct. 2 through Oct. 10, and Columbus Day falls on Oct. 10 this year.

Therefore, the next three weeks will be bristling with road construction activity as the contractor takes advantage of lane closures to get the work done.

The pavement reclamation process should take about two days — “unless the machine keeps breaking down,” Hurd said.

The pavement reclamation process includes grinding up the existing pavement and turning it into “itty bitty pieces the size of gravel, and using it for the base,” he said. Then, crews from Rampart Bituminous LLC will put re-pave the surface of the road.

Meanwhile, workers will get the fire suppression pipes in the ground along the ditch; and that area will be recovered and paved as well.

Once that pavement is laid, it cannot be torn up for a five-year period.

Causeway Renovation Committee member and Naples resident Bob Neault said he noticed something new almost every time he has driven along the Causeway during the summer months — although most of that progress was happening on the peripheral.

“It’s not as dramatic as the last couple weeks before Memorial Day,” Neault said. “But, the progress has been steady and quite a bit has been accomplished.”

Working around this summer’s lane closure prohibition, crews built 300-plus-feet of sea wall, according to Hurd.

“We did a ton of boardwalk. They were working up by the bridge for the sea wall. They have to build a sea wall in front of the bridge before they can build the bridge,” he said.

“They can do both the sea wall and bridge at the same time, but they can’t work over the channel until the sea wall is done,” he said.

“We have 4 feet of abutment up on the Causeway side. We can’t go any further. The next set of abutment is going to have rebar; and that’s going to be sticking out into the channel,” Hurd said.

On Sept. 18, the swing bridge will cease to open for boat traffic. Then, construction can begin in the channel under the bridge.

The construction crews have already started work on the new bridge, but the next steps cannot be completed until the swing bridge is closed to boat traffic.

“Basically, when the piles are driven they stick up too high, and would get in the way when the bridge is opened,” Hurd said.

In late August, crews from Wyman and Simpson, the contractor awarded MDOT’s two-year construction bid, worked from 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. — opening the swing bridge for 15-minute intervals and driving in temporary sheet piles around the coffer dam.

The temporary sheet piles will give workers a place to stand in the channel as future work occurs.

Naples town officials notified the Poland Springs company that its delivery drivers might want to take alternate routes – since traffic would be stalled during bridge openings in the wee morning hours on Aug. 25.

Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine recently said he has tried to avoid waiting in traffic by taking Route 114 to State Park Road. Often, when he goes to pull out onto Route 302, he sees the same vehicles that were stalled in the Causeway traffic cruising down Roosevelt Trail ahead of him.

“I don’t get anywhere faster than the people who waited in the traffic,” he said. “But, I feel like I do because I am moving instead of stopped and sitting in my car.”

But, elected officials do advise that commuters who can drive around the Causeway might elect to do so during this autumn’s lane closures. For those who cannot skirt construction, leave 15 minutes early to compensate for potential delays.

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