The Piscataqua River Bridge connecting Maine and New Hampshire. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald

KITTERY, Maine — State Department of Transportation officials will join the Town Council for a workshop Monday to discuss the upcoming Interstate 95 bridge rehabilitation project, and the increasing burden of seasonal traffic on Kittery roads.

The April 8 workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Town Hall, preceding the council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m.

The mile-long Piscataqua River Bridge, connecting New Hampshire to Maine, will undergo major renovations beginning this spring, including the resurfacing of all six lanes and replacement of traffic barriers. With construction beginning just before the tourist and summer vacation seasons get underway, the Maine DOT is working to remedy gridlock issues with traffic patterns that will change depending on the time of day.

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For non-peak traffic periods before Memorial Day and after Columbus Day, the bridge may be down to two lanes in each direction during the day and one lane in each direction at night. During peak traffic periods between Memorial and Columbus Day, and peak travel weekends throughout the year, the contractor will be required to maintain three lanes in each direction during the day. At night during these periods, the bridge will be down to one or two lanes in each direction.”

Deputy Commissioner Nina Fisher said allowable work times have been carefully selected based on the latest traffic data for this section of I-95 to minimize traffic impacts. The project will also include installation of travel time signs to give motorists advanced warning about delays.

In tandem with the I-95 bridge project, construction of a new $40 million toll plaza is already underway in York, with both projects on the same three-year construction schedule and under 10 miles of each other.

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Kittery Town Manager Kendra Amaral said DOT Project Manager Leanne Timberlake will present on the bridge project Monday.

At a workshop last month with the town’s legislative delegation, Town Councilor Jeffrey Thomson said the new welcome sign installed on the interstate in Kittery should have read, “Welcome to Maine, the state with third-world transportation infrastructure.” Thomson has, and continues to be, a strong proponent for DOT taking responsibility for seasonal traffic spilling off the highway and onto Kittery roads. He has also criticized DOT for building the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge as a one-lane bridge.

[Major turnpike construction could be a real headache for Maine drivers this summer]

“I’m just very concerned that there is no forward thinking regarding what’s happening in this community during the tourist season,” Thomson said, noting many neighborhood roads become gridlock on Sunday afternoon in the summertime because motorists attempt to avoid the interstate traffic.

“It can’t be the ‘forever bridge,’” Thomson said of the Piscataqua River Bridge. “It’s going to be horrendous, it already is. It’s going to be mind-numbing in the next five, six years.”

State Rep. Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery, said of the state’s transportation infrastructure, “We’re way behind. We’re at a point of danger.” He said the state has a plan to close bridges every year because “we can’t afford to keep up our infrastructure.”