Work begins on off-road portion of Eastern Trail
A large crowd gathered, and ground was broken this week on a project to build a new bridge on the Eastern Trail across the Dunstan River in Scarborough Marsh. The bridge will be the missing link connecting the trail between Black Point Road and Pine Point Road through the marsh.
The current on-road route for the Eastern Trail through Scarborough avoids traveling through the marsh and sends bicyclists and pedestrians out on busy Route One, Broadturn Road, Holmes Road, and Payne Road. Construction of the bridge will open up an off-road route, devoid of automobile traffic, in the old Eastern Railroad corridor.
The Eastern Trail, which is proposed to connect Kittery to South Portland, is part of the East Coast Greenway, which will eventually connect Calais, Maine with Key West, Florida.
Representatives of the Eastern Trail Management District, Eastern Trail Alliance, CPM Constructors of Freeport, the firm that has signed on to build the bridge, and local, state and congressional representatives spoke at the groundbreaking. They said it was an “historic day” and a “grand vision was starting to come to fruition.”
The bridge project will be the first off-road portion of the Eastern Trail built by the Eastern Trail Management District. Rick Michaud, president of the ETMD, said the new Dunstan River bridge is the “first part of a multi-year, multi-project” program for the organization.
The project comes as a result of years of negotiations and fund-raising by volunteers and state and federal agencies. Federal and state sources donated $1,023,000 in construction funds for the project. The Eastern Trail Alliance raised $120,000 from private sources to provide the local match. Granite State Gas Transmission and the Scarborough Sanitary District have been negotiating for location of pipelines near the proposed structure.
Speakers at the groundbreaking had positive remarks about the work of constructing the bridge.
“Many generations will reap the benefits of your hard work,” said Scarborough Town Council chair Patrick O’Reilly.
“Just having money isn’t going to get it done,” said Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Cole. “You need to have the local initiative.”
Others spoke about the health benefits for the community that the project will bring.
“The Eastern Trail will be the premier recreational, shared-use path in Maine,” said Tony Barrett, the Maine Representative for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. “The trail will be part of the solution for a healthy lifestyle in Maine.”
The new bridge will be 140 feet in length and 12 feet in width, to allow for pedestrians, bicyclists, and fishermen to all have ample space. The bridge will be pre-fabricated. Construction is set to start in the coming weeks, with completion expected by the fall foliage season. Once the bridge is built, it will be owned by the town of Scarborough.
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