Residents of a small island village in Stonington hope the state’s plan for their bridge isn’t set in stone.
Well, actually, they do want it set in stone — literally.
Nearly 180 people have signed a petition calling on the Maine Department of Transportation to rethink its plan to replace the Oceanville bridge. They want the department to consider preserving the existing granite stone abutments that have held up the 39-foot span and connected Oceanville with the rest of Stonington for more than 80 years.
Oceanville resident Bill Turner started the petition. He and many petitioners acknowledge that the bridge needs to be replaced, he said. But they questioned DOT’s current plan to build a longer bridge and get rid of the stone abutments, which serve as a nod to Stonington and Deer Isle’s proud history of granite quarrying.
“It’s sort of an iconic little bridge,” Turner said. “[The abutments] are representative of the granite industry that used to thrive here in Stonington.”
DOT is scheduled to replace the bridge — the only way on and off the island of Oceanville — with a new concrete one in 2023 and 2024, to the tune of $3.6 million. A bridge has been there in some form since the 1800s. The current bridge was built in 1940 and updated in 1968.
But the abutments residents want to save are in poor condition, according to DOT, and there are numerous other deficiencies. The bridge can only bear one large truck at a time, it has rusting beams, and its banks are eroding.
The abutments have loose, shifting and missing granite blocks, as well as a noticeable bulge in one of the abutments that could be indicative of movement around the foundation.
DOT considered replacing just the upper portion of the bridge and leaving the abutments, but that idea was scrapped due to high construction costs and a shorter life span than a complete replacement.
The condition of the abutments is driving the need for replacement as much as the steel superstructure, according to DOT.
The current plan is to put in a new 75-foot bridge with concrete abutments and protective riprap.
Turner and other residents went before the Stonington Select Board Monday to ask for their backing in the attempt to preserve the stone. He is hopeful that DOT will listen to their concerns.
“We feel like we are losing our heritage, and one-by-one things are removed, and they don’t come back,” he said.
Stonington was incorporated in 1897 and, at the time, had a dozen granite quarry operations. Granite from Deer Isle-Stonington has been used in several Northeast landmarks, including Grand Central Terminal, the Rockefeller Center skating rink and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
The department has received the petition signed by 178 people but hasn’t made any determination on the abutments.
DOT previously said that they planned to work on final design through the rest of the year and into 2023 and construction would begin in fall 2023. A spokesperson said this week that the department is planning to talk to town officials about the issue later this summer.