New technology, bridge span time between two towns
Thomaston — With more than 100 onlookers present, the new Wadsworth Street Bridge was officially opened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Thomaston and Cushing boards of selectmen Oct. 5.
The new $4.3 million bridge extends 280 feet across the St. George River, connecting the towns of Thomaston and Cushing. The 33-foot wide structure has an open height design compared to the restrictive, aging truss design built in 1928 at a cost of $114,000.
The bridge, which took two years to complete because of in-water restrictions, was built on a new alignment just upriver, closer to the original 1818 wooden toll house bridge which replaced the ferry transport that ran across the river to Watson's Point.
Reconstruction also included more than 1,100 feet of Wadsworth Street, Water Street, and Sunrise Terrace. The prime contractor was Prock Marine, with roadwork subcontracted to JBI.
"Transportation touches everybody's lives," Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt said in his opening remarks.
Bernhardt explained how the new technology used on the project will make it withstand 100-plus years of use. Features include the use of hybrid composite beams that require very little maintenance, and glass-reinforced polymer bars that will never rust.
He said the wider sidewalk and lanes will make for safer passage for all.
"It will no longer be one big truck at a time," Bernhardt said.
Greg Hamlin, Board of Selectmen Chairman for Thomaston, remarked that the project is "truly impressive" and between this and the Main Street reconstruction project, "Thomaston's infrastructure is going to be truly fantastic."
"May everybody enjoy the view each time you cross the bridge," Cushing Board of Selectmen Chairman Alton Grover said. "There is one thing we're not going to have to worry about anymore ... is people hitting the top of the bridge or having your mirrors swiped off."
Peggy McCrea of the Thomaston Historical Society spoke of how the original bridge was a toll bridge for which tolls were collected for about 50 years.
"But by 1874, residents felt that tolls were a detriment to commerce and a hindrance to trade and travel into town," McCrea explained. "Let there be a free bridge."
And in 1878, at a special town meeting, the town purchased the bridge for $2,100.
"The bridge was refurbished in 1892," McCrea said, with half being done in pine and the other half in cedar to test each wood's durability.
"The project was completed in just two months," she said jokingly, glancing at Bernardt.
In 1927, the town authorized the rebuilding of the bridge, at a cost of $113,600, with the State Highway Commission supervising the construction of the new steel and cement structure downstream from the existing wooden bridge. It was opened in September 1928.
"With a design life of 75 years, the 1928 bridge survived 13 years beyond its lifetime after being declared functionally obsolete in 2012," McCrea said. "While in use, it served us well."
"We shall miss the reminder of former shipping traffic requiring the use of a functional drawbridge," she said. "It will be with mixed emotions that we witness the removal of this bridge ... a bridge that not only connected our two communities, but has also connected Thomaston to its 20th-century history."
Other speakers at the ceremony were State Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, and Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, and the bridge was blessed by the Rev. Peter Jenks and the Rev. Vanessa Winters.
Following the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, a volley of shots was discharged across the new bridge by David Martucci and William Wasson, who were in period dress of the Revolutionary and French and Indian Wars.
Bernhardt, accompanied by municipal officials and citizens from Thomaston and Cushing, then crossed the bridge from the Cushing side in historic motor cars, circa 1928, provided by the Owls Head Transportation Museum and Wayne “Beaver” Stinson and Toby Stinson.
Dismantling of the old bridge is expected to begin immediately.
Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at email@example.com.