Heavy trucks won’t have to detour around Maine bridge anymore

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Heavier trucks traveling in Maine soon will get the green light to cross the Waldo-Hancock Bridge over the Penobscot River. The Maine Transportation Department said the present 80,000-pound limit will rise to 100,000 pounds as of Monday, Dec. 5.

The change follows protests by truckers who had been barred from the bridge and forced to take a fuel-consuming detour. Trucks and buses over 24,000 pounds were diverted from the bridge in mid-2003 when supporting cables were found to be deficient. After extra supporting cables were installed, trucks up to 80,000 pounds were allowed back on the span, which connects Prospect and Verona Island.

Now that the supplemental cables have performed flawlessly for two winters and structural steel and deck repairs have been completed, the bridge is considered safe to carry 100,000-pound vehicles, DOT Assistant Chief Engineer Chip Getchell says. “With the exception of permitted overloads, this will allow all legal loads to use the bridge,” Getchell says.

The decision to allow trucks as heavy as 100,000 pounds on the old bridge was made after the trucking industry pointed out that the 44-mile detour, combined with rising fuel prices, created a substantial financial burden. Transportation officials say that raising the weight limit on the bridge will save thousands of gallons of fuel.

Officials also have decided to increase weight enforcement for the bridge by using a retrofitted weigh-in-motion site on Verona Island; a special camera will take a picture of any overweight trucks, including its license plate, company name and gross weight. The DOT also is imposing a 300-foot truck spacing requirement. The reinforced bridge, which first opened to traffic in 1931, is to be replaced next year by a new span.