10 Most Traveled Bridges in Maine In Desperately Poor Condition
Each day, thousands of drivers cross the most traveled bridges in Maine in poor condition. Two of them are over 60 years old, and one turned 90 in 2023. In 2022, Maine ranked 5th for having the worst bridges in the country. Half of those bridges are in Cumberland County, a county that Portland, the state’s largest city, calls home.
How Many of Maine’s Bridges Are in Poor Condition?
According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Maine has 2,521 bridges, and 392 need repair. Bipartisan Infrastructure’s Bridge Formula Funds for Main totals $225 million, but the state only has $90 million so far. And, $412,000 is already earmarked for one bridge.
Perhaps more concerning is the number of structurally unsound bridges added to the list since 2019. Just three years earlier, 314 bridges needed repair. Most need rehabilitation or deck replacements, but five require full replacement. Take a closer look at the bridges in need of repair in Maine.
What Makes a Bridge Structurally Unsound?
The Department of Transportation rates certain aspects of a bridge using a 1 to 10 scale. Nine equates to “excellent,” while a zero means “fail.” Professional inspectors look at:
- Roadway alignment
- Superstructure (girders, trusses, etc.)
- Substructure (Piers, abutments, etc.)
- Railings and guardrails
- Channel protection
After scoring those components, professionals calculate the final score. This determines what action, if any, is taken.
- 0 to 3: Replace or rebuild
- 4: Rehabilitation
- 5 to 6: Maintenance
- 7 to 9: Preservation and preventative maintenance
All components of a bridge must be in good shape to support the weight and vibrations of traffic using that crossing. Signs of rust, cracks, and crumbling pavement raise concern.
Are These Bridges in Maine Still Safe to Cross?
A structurally unsound bridge isn’t necessarily dangerous to drive over, but it does mean improvements or repairs must be made. Without improvements, authorities might have to limit the weight of vehicles using a bridge or close the bridge and establish detours.
Detours prove problematic, especially for commuters. Detours that don’t add to travel times aren’t always possible. Longer commutes and heavier traffic in areas unused to commuter traffic frustrate locals and drivers. If rerouted traffic enters rural roads, Maine’s wildlife is impacted, too as they’re not used to a lot of vehicles. The goal is to keep closures as short as possible.
Where Are Maine’s Most Traveled, Structurally Deficient Bridges?
Five of the Maine bridges in poor condition are in Cumberland County, the state’s most populous county. Penobscot County is second with two bridges. Check out the different bridges and their rankings in terms of the amount of daily traffic. Note that some of the 10 bridges are paired together due to their proximity to each other.
#1 and #2: 1-295 North and South over Route 88
The bridges with the highest amount of daily traffic on this list are the I-295 North and South overpasses. Both portions cross Route 88 in Yarmouth and both top the list of Maine bridges in poor condition. Northbound traffic averages 27,320 vehicles per day, while southbound traffic averages 27,080.
Built in 1959, the three-span steel girder bridge has a concrete deck showing cracks in both the deck and columns. Plus, some rebar is exposed, and rust on flanges and beams is another concern. Bearings all received a poor rating with no paint remaining. The substructure is also in poor condition.
The 279-foot-long bridges are scheduled for complete replacement. At the same time, the addition of safer intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists is planned according to Maine’s Department of Transportation. The contractor set a completion date of December 12, 2025.
#3: I-95 over Route 15 (Broadway)
The I-95 crosses Broadway in Bangor, and that bridge failed inspections due to crumbling concrete and rusty steel. The bridge has seen a lot of traffic since its construction in 1960, with up to 25,340 vehicles per day currently. An estimated cost of $20 million will be covered by a federal grant.
Bidding for this bridge project started in 2023 with hopes of a wider, higher bridge reaching completion by November 2024. Hopes are to limit bridge closures to overnight hours.
#4 and #5: I-95 South and North over Stillwater Avenue
Inspectors called out a pair of Bangor I-95 bridges for deficiencies. It’s not surprising that three bridges in this city experience rust, as winters are tough. Icy roads must be salted and sanded to prevent car crashes on the I-95 during winter storms.
This time, it’s the north and south bridges over Stillwater Avenue in need of repairs. As these bridges see a lot of traffic to the area mall and shopping centers, their repair is a priority. The south bridge sees 25,150 vehicles per day, while the north bridge has 25,120.
#6 and #8: I-295 North over Route US 1 North and South
Yarmouth already had two bridges on this list. In addition to the I-295 overpasses that cross Route 88, the overpasses crossing Route 1 also failed. The northbound and southbound bridges have been in place since 1959, and hairline fractures in the abutments and exposed rebar are present, while the steel girders have rust spots.
As the substructure is in poor condition, plans for replacement bridges are in the works. Yarmouth is a high-traffic area due to its proximity to Portland and Mackworth Island and Freeport’s shopping, and it increases with summer tourism. Estimated traffic is at 24,130 northbound and 23,700 southbound. In addition to the new bridges, intersection improvements to heighten safety for pedestrians and bicyclists are in the works.
#7: Congress Street over Stroudwater River
Approximately 24,013 vehicles use the Congress Street/Stroudwater River Bridge every day. This is a bustling area in Portland, and trucks account for 5% of that traffic. While the deck and superstructure received “fair” ratings, the substructure failed inspections. Inspectors pointed out damage to the embankments, too.
Congress Street also serves as Route 9 and Route 22 in that section. Plus, the Portland International Jetport is nearby, making it a high-traffic area for airport traffic.
#9: Main Street over the Auburn Riverwalk
Auburn’s Main Street bridge over a pedestrian walkway sees daily traffic of 19,242 vehicles, and 9% of it is truck traffic. The bridge’s November 2022 inspection declared it structurally deficient with the deck and superstructure.
The pedestrian walkway is part of the Auburn Riverwalk that connects Auburn and Lewiston. It’s a 1.6-mile walking path that has a trestle bridge to cross the river. Anything falling from the bridge can injure pedestrians, so repairs are a priority.
#10: Main Street/Main Railroad and Back River Creek Marsh
A large percentage of Bath Iron Works employees take the Station 46 Bridge traveling from Woolwich to Bath. It’s a smaller bridge crossing the Back River Creek Marsh. Estimates put daily traffic at 18,940 vehicles per day. However, inspections found it in poor shape and needs replacement. This is the oldest bridge on the list of 10, so it’s not surprising.
The bridge’s steel piles and bracings were weakened from rust, and sections were missing. Concrete supports and decking showed cracks and exposed steel rebar. Work started in 2022 with the construction of a temporary bridge to avoid a 32-mile detour.
A Table of Structurally Unsound Maine Bridges
|Bridge Location||Type of Bridge||County||Year Built||Daily Crossing|
|I-295 North/Rt. 88||Urban Interstate||Cumberland||1959||27,320|
|I-295 South/Rt. 88||Urban Interstate||Cumberland||1959||27,080|
|I-95/Rt. 15 (Broadway)||Urban Interstate||Penobscot||1960||25,340|
|I-95 South/Stillwater||Urban Interstate||Penobscot||1960||25,150|
|I-95 South/Stillwater||Urban Interstate||Penobscot||1960||25,120|
|I-295 North/ Route US 1 North and South||Urban Interstate||Cumberland||1959||24,130|
|Congress St./Stroudwater River||Urban Arterial||Cumberland||1989||24,013|
|I-295 South/ Route US 1 North and South||Urban Interstate||Cumberland||1959||23,700|
|Main Street/Pedestrian Walkway||Urban Arterial||Androscoggin||1975||19,242|
|Main Street/Maine RR and a Marsh||Rural Arterial||Sagadahoc||1933||18,940|