Stuart Hedstrom • April 6, 2018
MILO — Three structurally deficient bridges in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties will be replaced using $10.8 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER grant funds awarded to the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) last month. Each bridge has exceeded its lifespan and the MDOT will work to replace the structures over the next few years before there are negative impacts on the region’s infrastructure and economy.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, announced the awarding of $10,836,220 in federal funds to replace the three bridges in what she called “the Penquis Region Rural Bridges Project” and on the morning of April 5 she had the opportunity to tour the Pleasant River Bridge on outer Pleasant Street with MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt.
The other two bridges that will be replaced are the Mattawamkeag Bridge in the town of the same name on Route 2 over the Mattawamkeag River and the West Branch Bridge in T3 Indian Purchase Township on Route 11 over the West Branch of the Penobscot River.
“I am very excited by this TIGER grant, it is $10.8 million and it will allow for the replacement of three bridges in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties,” Collins said before walking across the bridge. The program has a 50/50 match with grant recipients providing an equal number of funds and/or resources for the projects.
“I am pleased to say Maine has been successful in securing over $100 million in grant monies,” Collins added. Since the program’s inception in 2009, more than $133 million in TIGER grants has been secured for transportation investments across Maine, including rail projects in the northern part of the state and seaports in addition to bridges.
“It’s funding that comes out of the general fund, not the transportation fund, so it puts more money into transportation structures,” Bernhardt said. “She’s batting 1.000,” he said about Collins’ work in making Maine TIGER grant applications be successful in every funding round.
“It is so important, each of these,” Collins said. “This bridge is 89 years old, you only have to look at the rust to see it is a safety and efficiency problem.”
“It was meant to be 75 years old and it’s done that, and it’s time to put in a more modern structure,” Bernhardt said. He said the bridge is inspected regularly being in a fracture critical state — the other one-way detours for the Penquis Region Rural Bridges Project are up to nearly 100 miles.
“What I like about the TIGER program is it gives states that flexibility to fix bridges that are important,” Collins said. “You see the trucks,” she added, as a logging truck heading toward downtown Milo stopped and then proceeded once the driver saw the bridge was clear.
Bernhardt said the TIGER funds have helped the MDOT fix bridges that are critical for Maine businesses. He said without the Pleasant River bridge the detour would be 12 miles — the other one-way detours for the Penquis Region Rural Bridges Project total nearly 100 miles.
“It’s the idea that industry uses these, for them to go 12 miles is thousands of dollars more,” Bernhardt said. “We want to do anything we can to help them because it is good for industry and the economy.”
He said a public hearing on the Milo project is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11 at the town hall.
“It is a late 2019, 2020 project,” Bernhardt said, as after next week’s hearing the permitting, design work, and planning will begin.
“It would be more expensive to rehab it than to put up a new one,” Bernhardt said after he and Collins walked to the other end of the bridge, a point the senator emphasized.
Bernhardt said the MDOT is looking to make the new Pleasant River Bridge wider, to allow trucks to travel across in both lanes.
“This is a program that really meets the transportation needs of the people in our state,” Collins said after her bridge tour. “There are very few federal programs that have provided the flexibility that states need.”
Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
U.S. SEN. COLLINS TOURS PLEASANT RIVER BRIDGE — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, toured the Pleasant River Bridge on outer Pleasant Street in Milo on April 5 with Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt. The bridge is one of three in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties that will be replaced using a $10.8 million TIGER grant awarded last month.