The Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge, which connects Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, over the Kennebunk River, is a vital link in our transportation network. The bridge was constructed in 1933 as a swing span bridge, but it no longer opens for boat traffic. At over 80 years old, the bridge is a fine example of yankee ingenuity, standing on the 1896 granite abutments. However recent inspections have shown that the bridge is structurally deficient, effected by widespread steel corrosion in beams, and in need of rehabilitation. The Maine Department of Transporation (MeDOT) notified the Towns that the bridge has been programmed for reconstruction in 2017.
Due to the extensive amount of seasonal tourist/business traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, MeDOT decided from the start that it will be best to restrict construction of the project to off-season times. Other areas of significant concern include how best to maintain traffic and access to businesses during construction. Because of these concerns, MaineDOT requested that a local advisory committee with members representing the Towns of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport be created. The Selectmen from both communities appointed representatives and the committee held met in 2014 and early 2015.
After a thorough set of tests in late fall, the engineers stated that they were 85-90 percent certain that the abutments currently supporting the bridge are sound and can be used to support the new bridge. This news has a tremendous impact on the project and the projected timeline. Whereas, originally, the project was anticipated to take up to three construction seasons, detours, and one-lane bridge closures, engineers are currently looking at completing the project within one season, likely from January to May 2017, with only a 30- to 45-day full bridge closure needed.
Engineers presented three bridge construction alternatives, the one that seemed to find the most favor was option C, which includes a 45-foot wide bridge - 9 feet wider than the current bridge - that would feature a 10-foot upstream (basin side) sidewalk or "esplanade." The bridge would feature two 11-foot lanes, 2-foot shoulders and a 5-foot downstream sidewalk as well.
The Committee will meet further, as the plans continue to unfurl. Topics to be covered in future meetings will include the materials for the bridge, hours for construction, style of railings, pedestrian/bike areas, flower boxes, and the future of the gatekeeper house.
The Town thanks its committee members who stressed the importance of the bridge to daily life and presented the case that led to such a short construction time line. Committee members include Selectman Sheila Matthews-Bull, Ashley Padget, Richard Smith, Thomas Boak, and Debra Lennon.