A rendering of the planned replacement for the Falls Bridge in Blue Hill. Work on replacing the current aging bridge could start later this year. Credit: Courtesy of Maine DOT

BLUE HILL, Maine – The days for a beloved, yet beleaguered bridge in Hancock County are numbered after the state awarded a $9.4 million contract last month to replace it.

The Maine Department of Transportation accepted Cianbro’s bid to demolish the Blue Hill Falls Bridge, a concrete rainbow-arch bridge that shepherds Route 175 over Salt Pond and Blue Hill Harbor. In its place the company will build a new girder bridge. Initial work at the location in South Blue Hill could start as early as next month.

Built in 1926, the bridge is believed to be one of only two remaining bridges of its style in Maine and popular with locals and tourists alike for its architecture and serene setting on the water.

“People find it aesthetically pleasing,” said Blue Hill Select Board member Ellen Best. “It’s a very popular place for   people to kayak and enjoy how the beautiful scenery is.”

The bridge is so popular that in the summer, it can become a bit of a hazard with cars stopping and sightseers snapping photos, locals said.

Functionally, it also serves as the quickest way for some parts of Blue Hill and neighboring Brooklin to reach the hospital in downtown Blue Hill.

Talks about how to address the aging 100-foot span, with its cratered asphalt and deteriorating concrete, have been going on for at least a decade. Ideas have ranged from refurbishing it to replacing it to moving the crossing to another area.

State officials previously said that repairing it would not be as cost effective as replacement and wouldn’t last as long. The new bridge, which will be raised several feet in response to rising sea levels, could last as long as 100 years – about twice as long as a repaired one.

“It’s falling apart,” said Scott Miller, another select board member. “It’s clear something needed to be done.”

The new bridge will not have the arches of the old one, but will reuse the existing abutments, he said. It will also be wider and have shoulders that the current one lacks.

Aside from lamentations about the loss of a historic bridge, there have been some concerns that building a wider bridge and cutting down the steepness from one side could allow drivers to increase their speed in the area.

A temporary bridge will be erected adjacent to the site and used for traffic during construction. DOT officials previously estimated work could start this spring and conclude in 2024. DOT project manager Andrew Lathe said Monday that he expected a clearer timeline after the department meets with Cianbro later this week, but said the company plans to start initial work in March or April this year.