ELLSWORTH, Maine — Motorists who drive between Ellsworth and the towns of Clifton, Mariaville, Otis and beyond now have two miles of new road to take along their route.

A new portion of Route 180 where it intersects Route 1A in Ellsworth was opened to traffic on Monday. The new road runs along the western side of the Union River, connecting Route 1A at Vittum Road to the pre-existing section of Route 180 about a half-mile west of the dam at the southern end of Graham Lake. The new section of road was built because of structural concerns about a bridge where the highway used to cross the top of the dam.

Route 180 between Graham Lake and Route 1A in Ellsworth used to overlap with Route 179 on the eastern side of the river.

In early 2007, traffic was restricted across the bridge after a Maine Department of Transportation survey showed it was in extremely poor condition. On a scale of zero to 100, with zero being the worst, the bridge scored 28.7, DOT officials have said. A temporary single-lane bridge has spanned the dam since then.

The bridge across the top of the dam will remain open for another two weeks, until Aug. 12, according to DOT. On that date it will close, forcing motorists to access the old portion of highway on the eastern side of the dam from Route 179 and on the western side from Route 180.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....