Stillwater Avenue Bridge Weight Restrictions, Plans for Replacement

OLD TOWN – The Maine Department of Transportation is posting new weight limits for the Stillwater Avenue Bridge #2 in Old Town. This bridge is the northerly span of the two bridges, named the Llewellin Estes Bridge, that carry Stillwater Avenue over the Stillwater River. Beginning on July 25th, vehicles that weight 30 tons or more will be prohibited from using this bridge. The length of the bypass detour is two miles. The length of the abutment-to-abutment detour is approximately eight miles. This posting does not affect a wide range of larger vehicles like fire engines, school buses, oil delivery trucks, and most local delivery vehicles. It does affect loaded logging trucks, concrete trucks, and other vehicles exceeding 60,000 pounds. MaineDOT is communicating with affected trucking interests to minimize impacts.

The Stillwater Avenue Bridge #2 was originally constructed in 1952. A May 17th inspection found water leaking through the bridge deck and widespread concrete section loss. The bridge deck rating has dropped from poor to serious condition. The bridge superstructure and substructure are also in in poor condition.

MaineDOT is revising its approach to replace the Stillwater Avenue Bridges and make nearby roadway and intersection improvements. Earlier this year, the department put the project out to bid. The bridge work was bundled with plans to improve the Bennoch Road and College Avenue intersections. The low bid on this project was nearly double what the department had budgeted. Given the design and contract requirements, the bid results were certainly influenced by significant construction cost inflation and risks associated with supply chain issues and a difficult labor market.

“During the planning phase of this project, we could not have predicted many of the current cost drivers, such as the high cost of steel components as well as material and labor availability risks over a more-than-four-year-long construction period,” said MaineDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note. “As such, we decided to reject all bids on the project. We don’t like to do this, but proceeding with the original plan no longer represented the best value for the people of Maine.”

For this reason, MaineDOT is pursuing separate contracts for the nearby intersection and highway work and the bridge replacements. MaineDOT intends to advertise for construction bids, consistent with the original design, for the Bennoch Road and College Avenue intersections and nearby highway work this September.

Regarding the bridge work, MaineDOT is reexamining the bridge design, construction assumptions, and potential special funding sources. Although the cost of bridges presents a formidable challenge, it also presents an opportunity to showcase the innovation and advances being made in composite bridge construction, especially those being led by the University of Maine. To explore this opportunity, MaineDOT intends to utilize an innovative project delivery method, namely a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) process.
CM/GC involves a contractor during the design phase to provide constructability input, scheduling, and estimating services. The goals of this partnership between owner, design engineer, and contractor are to innovate, minimize risk, and control costs. This process could also lead to construction activities beginning sooner than traditional contracting methods.

Setting up the bridge CM/GC process will proceed immediately and is anticipated to move to a construction phase in 2024. MaineDOT bridge engineers will continue to monitor the condition of the existing structure. The department will continue to communicate project updates and traffic impacts to nearby residents and businesses.