Causeway for celebration
New bridge, once a cause for community concern, is celebrated
The new Bay of Naples Bridge in Naples opened to vehicle traffic on May 18. The bridge is part of a $9.2 million restoration of the Naples causeway that includes a 15-foot wide boardwalk running along the Long Lake side of the bridge and a seawall along the Brandy Pond side.
The community celebration of the opening, which included a marching band, speeches and parades of antique and late model cars, was the culmination of nearly two years of work, according to the MaineDOT. The new bridge replaces the 1954 “swing bridge” with a solid steel-reinforced structure that is 20 feet thick and rises 10 feet higher than the old bridge at its peak. The bridge also features a 30-foot wide navigation channel especially designed for marine traffic, an important feature in this lakeside community. That channel opened for boat traffic on May 23, well in time for the area’s influx of summer visitors. Wyman & Simpson, Inc. of Richmond is the primary contractor on the project.
Bob Neault, chairman of the Causeway Restoration Committee noted: “This occasion marks a truly significant milestone in the history of this development project, the town of Naples and the Lakes Region as a whole. In addition to the incredible space that we are creating in Naples, this effort should serve as a blueprint to other communities and demonstrates what can be accomplished when state and local governments come together with community and business leaders in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration to address issues that affect all of these diverse interests.”
Drivers in a caravan of antique cars honked their horns and waved to the hundreds of onlookers who hung over the rail of the new bridge. The cars were the last ever to cross the 58-year-old swing bridge at Naples’ causeway that had deteriorated to the extent it had to be replaced. The new bridge was built next to it.
All the speakers on hand commented on the dedicated cooperation of the state, town and contractors that were so vital in seeing the project become a reality.
“MaineDOT is proud to have been a key partner in achieving a great balance between the need for efficient statewide travel and the need to promote local economic development and quality places,” said MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note. “When we all work together, we can ensure that villages are not just a commuter route, but are places to visit, shop and stay, further helping to demonstrate once again, what it means to be in Maine.”
The event was covered broadly in the press, and the upbeat nature of that coverage was in contrast to news stories during the public planning process. Local residents had fought hard to have MaineDOT install a new swing bridge to replace the old one. Some nearby residents and businesses had worried the MaineDOT’s decision to forgo another swing bridge with a fixed-span bridge would prevent boats from passing between Long Lake and Brandy Pond and hurt the causeway’s economy. MaineDOT eventually compromised with a higher bridge design, leaving a height of 12.5 feet to accommodate most boats.
Still, many locals were pleased with the fixed-span bridge design, since they’d no longer have to wait in traffic for boats to pass. (The old bridge opened every two hours.) Many at the opening celebration said they believed the new bridge and ensuing improvements will draw more people to the area.
Representative Rich Cebra (R-Naples), who is a co-chair of the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee, spoke for many of those present: “This project is a shinning example of the local businesses, the town government and MaineDOT working together to revitalize the beautiful area around the Naples Causeway. As a resident of the area, I am extremely excited to be a part of this celebration today.”
While the bridge has been opened to the public, there is still work remaining on the project, including demolition of the old bridge and construction of a potential amphitheater. Work is scheduled to be complete in spring 2013, but MaineDOT has said it could be done as early as this fall.