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Construction underway to install bridge in Hampden

The bridge on Carmel Road is being replaced by one that's made up of composite materials expected to last more than 100 years.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Maintaining infrastructure is an ongoing challenge for state officials as many bridges across the state need repairs or replacement. On Tuesday, a somewhat unique bridge replacement project started in Hampden.

Twin bridge on Carmel Road in Hampden is being replaced with a new bridge made of materials similar to but stronger than plastic and rubber. It was created by Brewer-based AIT Composites.

This bridge is the second of its kind in Maine. The other, also created by AIT Composites and completed last year, is the Grist Mill Bridge on Main Road in Hampden

Kenneth Sweeney is the chief engineer for AIT Composites.

"If we can develop materials and get the same strengths that last that much longer with little to no maintenance, that's a big advantage," Sweeney said. 

Some of the benefits of using these composite materials are that they're corrosion-free, lightweight, and require little to no maintenance over time. Developers of this material said, unlike steel bridges that rust or concrete bridges that can deteriorate over time, these beams are designed to outlast them. 

The project in Hampden began in 2021. Sweeney said his team finished building the beams in just a few months.

"Most of the time has been spent taking the old bridge out, creating the detour, and getting ready for the girders to be installed," Sweeney said.

The Maine Department of Transportation is now working on installing the beams. 

Wayne Frankhauser is the bridge program manager for the Maine DOT. He said there are many advantages to using these materials. 

"We fully expect as time goes on this will be competitive with the other more conventional products, the steel, and the concrete that we typically see and use," Frankhauser said. 

The old bridge lasted 71 years, and this new replacement is expected to last more than 100 years.

The materials used for this bridge also have a number of environmental benefits. 

"The less often you have to work on it, the less often you have to replace it. That's certainly gonna reduce the materials, the upfront impacts, the environmental impacts," Frankhauser said. 

Frankhauser said the bridge construction is expected to be completed by late fall. 

Sweeney said a number of other projects are currently in the works to replace other bridges in Maine, and across the country, with these beams.

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