Why a pedestrian bridge? Is wood durable? How will we pay for this? You have questions—so do we! Here are some that come up frequently, along with answers we've uncovered. This FAQ brief has even more information.
What Really Happened to the Old Bridge?
The existing “Varney Bridge" was built of steel and concrete by the State of Maine in 1953–55. Though its projected life span was 75 years, the bridge required extensive repair and restoration in 1996. It was finally condemned by the state in 2007 after only 52 years of service. With limited funds available for infrastructure, the state opted not to replace the bridge, and instead scheduled it for removal in 2018. The remaining abutments and access barriers at each end of the dam will be the town's responsibility. By acting now, we have the opportunity to work with the state to leverage the removal project in a way that benefits our town.
How will we pay for a new bridge?
A preliminary consultation with a framing engineer and our subsequent research projects that a covered, timber frame bridge will cost approximately $1 million to construct, including the replacement of a central supporting pier. To support this, the GWBB has initiated a fundraising campaign that is seeking support from foundations and corporate sponsors and private citizens and applying to state and federal programs.
Is a covered, wooden bridge right for this site?
Yes, for at least three reasons:
- Wood will be more affordable than steel. A galvanized, steel-truss pedestrian bridge for this site is estimated to cost at least $1.5 million, compared to about $1 million for a covered wooden bridge. Either would incur additional cost to build a central supporting pier.
- Wood will be more durable. A steel bridge’s lifespan is approximately 50 years, with wooden deck replacement every 15 years. A covered wooden bridge would have a lifespan of 100 to 200 years, with a standing-seam metal roof needing replacement every 50 to 100 years. The oldest wooden bridges in the country were built before 1830. Maine has more than a dozen, including seven that are more than 100 years old. Covered wooden bridges have been built with spans in excess of 150 feet, including a 613-foot state highway bridge in Ohio (pictured above).
Wood will honor our history. The bridge will be located by the site of the first successful, water-powered sawmill in North America. The area was first occupied by Europeans nearly 400 years ago as a frontier trading post.“Chadbourne’s Bridge” can be found in this location on maps as early as the 1700s, and we’re still looking!
Why a pedestrian and bicycle bridge?
It's primarily a matter of cost. The road on the north side of the bridge no longer supports vehicular traffic, and the estimated $750,000 cost to restore that roadway is prohibitive. Also, a vehicular bridge plan would eliminate our eligibility for grant programs supporting alternative transportation, one of which could underwrite up to 40 percent of our budget. All together, making this a vehicular bridge would double the projected costs to $2 million—far more than we can hope to raise through a combination of public grants, corporate giving, and private contributions.
Is the dam in good shape?
Yes! It recently passed a dam breach stress test administered by the State of Maine. For further reinforcement, the state will install tension rods before the old bridge is removed, anchoring the dam to the bedrock. Kruger Energy, the hydroelectric company that runs the power plant and owns the dam, expects to operate the facility indefinitely and has scheduled spillway resurfacing within the next 10 years. The abutments are currently owned by the state, but will be transferred to the town in sound condition to support our bridge after the existing bridge is removed.