Maine Department of Transportation maintenance engineers determined part of the the bridge along East Main Street in Dover-Foxcroft is damaged. There is no immediate threat, and the bridge, pictured Nov. 3, 2021, remains open. Credit: Valerie Royzman / BDN

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Maine Department of Transportation engineers are monitoring and planning potential repairs for a piece of a bridge along East Main Street that appears to be crumbling.

“After being contacted by the public about this bridge, MaineDOT engineers did a site visit [Tuesday],” MaineDOT spokesperson Paul Merrill said. “They observed damage and distress on the structure. It is a concrete arch bridge that was built in 1912. In recent years, about 9,000 vehicles cross it on an average day.”

Like other historic bridges across Maine, this one is showing signs of its age after more than a century of use. The other major bridge in Dover-Foxcroft, which crosses the Piscataquis River on Essex Street, is already slated for replacement in upcoming years. Now MaineDOT is considering immediate steps to address the damage on the East Main Street bridge and whether a larger repair or replacement is necessary down the line.

If MaineDOT engineers determine that a structure poses an immediate threat and is unsafe to use, they close it, Merrill said. The East Main Street bridge remains open, and there are no weight restrictions in place.

Town Manager Jack Clukey has not heard from residents directly, but the Dover-Foxcroft Police Department contacted him about the damage on the bridge, he said.

“It’s important that the DOT is aware and taking steps,” he said. “It’s a very busy, busy bridge and old, so it’s been good to see how prompt the DOT has been in responding to our concerns.”

Around town and on social media, residents have expressed worries about the bridge, with some saying they plan to avoid driving along the structure. Some residents suggested prompt action such as authorizing a weight limit, while others called for more intense repairs before the structure deteriorates even more.

MaineDOT engineers will take some immediate steps “to remove whatever might have become unstable so there aren’t pieces falling,” Clukey said. The town manager could not provide a firm date, but he said he expects the damage to be addressed soon.

“MaineDOT bridge maintenance engineers will continue to monitor the condition of this bridge and may need to make some repairs to the concrete in the short term,” Merrill said. “In the long term, we are discussing a replacement schedule.”

MaineDOT is finishing the design of the Dover Bridge replacement, along Essex Street, in 2023, Clukey said. Tentatively, the project will be completed over several construction seasons throughout 2024 and 2025, he said.

The bridge replacement was supposed to cost $8.8 million, according to a MaineDOT work plan released in early 2021.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office announced in October that $7.2 million she requested for the replacement of the Dover Bridge was included in the draft Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation Appropriations bill, though the Senate and House still need to vote on the legislation.

If enacted into law, MaineDOT would use the funding to replace the bridge, according to a news release from the senator’s office.