2016-09-15 / Front Page

Construction on controversial Stackpole Bridge underway

By LIZ GOTTHELF
Staff Writer


A crew works to reinforce the arch of the Stackpole Bridge on the Simpson Road in Saco Wednesday morning. 
LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune A crew works to reinforce the arch of the Stackpole Bridge on the Simpson Road in Saco Wednesday morning. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune SACO — As crews work to rehabilitate the Stackpole Bridge, they are taking care to preserve the unique keystone arch.

The Stackpole Bridge was built in 1848 over Stackpole Creek on Simpson Road at the request of local farmers who wanted a direct roadway to connect their farms with the mills of Saco and Biddeford, according to Maine Preservation office documents.

The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2013, and officials have discussed for many years whether to rehabilitate the current bridge or construct a new one.

In 2014, residents voted to allow the city to borrow up to $990,000 to reopen the bridge; later, the City Council approved using an additional $370,000 of city funds for the project.

Recently, rehabilitation on the bridge began, and Public Works Director Patrick Fox said the work currently underway is to protect and reinforce the keystone arch. Fox said this is the most delicate stage of work, and moving the wrong rock could disrupt the process.

“We certainly want to take our time during this stage,” he said.

He doesn’t know the exact date when work would be completed, Fox said. Officials should have a better idea of a completion date when work to protect the arch has been completed, as the next stages should move more quickly.

Stones removed from the bridge have been set aside and will be used for the facade. So although the bridge will have a precast T-wall retention system, the exterior will have a similar appearance to the bridge before the rehabilitation project, and the unique keystone arch will remain.

Prior to the rehabilitation project, the bridge was eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Though the Maine Historic Preservation Commission has said the bridge, after it is rehabilitated, will no longer be eligible for the register, Kirk Mahoney, director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, said in a June email to the city that after the rehabilitation project, “Saco will still possess a visually distinctive bridge that incorporates an authentic 19th-century feature into a modern structure designed to convey the general appearance of its 168-yearold predecessor.”

Fox said the bridge, when completed, is expected to last 75 years.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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