Through decades of use, the 26-foot steel girder bridge on William Knight Road has served its purpose of carrying people and vehicles over the Pleasant River but like all good things, the life span of Varney’s Bridge has about reached its end.
Typically, size, complexity and increasing age are key elements in making the decision to replace a steel girder bridge. Capacity issues can dictate faster and heavier loads that stress this type of bridge past its original design parameters. Steel girder bridges can be more expensive than other types of bridges because of the rising cost of materials and in construction and this type of bridge may not be suitable for very heavy loads and may not be able to support the weight of heavy vehicles.
In June 2021, Windham residents approved spending $25,000 for a study at the Annual Town Meeting about how to best move forward to replace the aging structure. That study was completed last summer and the results were forwarded to the MDOT.
Using the MDOT Bridge Program Design Guide, a preliminary design report was created, and it mandated that any survey work necessary to define right-of-way and bridge layout and alignment be performed and any geotechnical engineering evaluations required to design a new bridge support structure be initiated.
When the new MDOT Three-Year Plan of upcoming projects was released in January, $1.5 million in
funding from the MDOT was authorized for a $2.2 million project.
The Town of Windham then developed preliminary and final design plans in accordance with standards in the latest editions of MaineDOT’s Bridge Design Guide and followed Standard Specifications and Standard Details requirements. Those design plans included a specific plan for the project, a bridge profile including cross-sections, and geometry for approach design.
The plan also featured design computations, load ratings, and evaluation information for the new structure meeting MDOT specifications.
It also meant development of an engineering estimate of construction costs and creating a final plan for review by the state.
During Windham’s Annual Town Meeting on June 17, a warrant item authorized the town to contribute $700,000 to complete the bridge replacement project.
A public meeting will be conducted in the future to obtain community feedback about the project and the town will coordinate the project with all utilities. The MDOT and the town will prepare a set of Design Plan Impacts with all design features, topographical details and impacts associated with the project.
MDOT will conduct and document quality control design checks and provide engineering support during the competitive bidding process and any other additional services as requested by the town.
The bridge replacement project is now out for bidding, and a preliminary structural examination of the existing Varney’s Bridge was conducted this past week. Once a contractor has been approved by the Windham Town Council for the project, work will begin that will involve fabrication of the bridge components all the way through demolition and replacement of the existing Varney’s Bridge structure.
Work on replacing the bridge is expected to begin next year and be completed no later than January 2025 with minimal traffic disruption to the public. <