Delays in work on the Cape Neddick Bridge have started to cause traffic backups in the area. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald

CAPE NEDDICK, Maine — The Cape Neddick Bridge project on Route 1 is behind schedule due to several unforeseen issues, with two-way traffic not slated to begin until just before Memorial Day weekend and substantial completion “a floating target that’s headed for the middle of July.”

That’s the analysis of Brian Emmons of T. Buck Construction of Auburn, the contractor hired by the Maine Department of Transportation to perform the work.

Work started Feb. 19 on the bridge, located just south of Cat ’n Nine Tails convenience store. At that time, Emmons anticipated the road would be open to two lanes as of May 3 with substantial completion by the end of June.

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But workers have run into “a multitude of issues” with the site, mostly around ledge “where we didn’t expect it to be, and no ledge where we did expect it,” he said. A number of test borings had been taken, he said, “but bedrock is essentially a buried mountain. You know what’s happening in the small cylindrical hole in the ground, but you don’t necessarily know what is happening four feet to the right or left of it.”

He said “given the sensitivity of the area,” blasting wasn’t an option, “so we had to revert back to older methods like hydraulic hammers.”

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He said there have also been delays in scheduling utilities, which contributed to the deadline being pushed back. In addition, he said, there is “very little wiggle room in terms of design” of the bridge, because all the pieces have been precast.

“On some bridges, you can make adjustments by shortening the bridge or changing the structure,” Emmons said. “But in this case, we have had to work so the precast fits perfectly.”

Route 1 goes through the Cape Neddick project site and to the popular summer tourist town of Ogunquit, a fact not lost on Emmons or MDOT, he said.

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“We are all aware of the congestion issues starting Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “That’s why we are opening to two lanes before Memorial Day, and the light poles (which now stops traffic in one direction to allow for the flow of vehicles in the other direction) will come down.”

Emmons did not rule out temporary lane closures as work proceeds, but after Memorial Day, work will shift to nighttime with lane closures occurring then, if necessary, and not during the busy daytime hours.