Town will work to keep footbridge clear of snow this winter
HOULTON, Maine — The town will work to keep the Gateway Crossing footbridge plowed and open for pedestrians throughout the remainder of the winter, in response to requests from the public to do so.
The discussion came up during the Town Council meeting on Dec. 9.
Chris Stewart, director of the public works department, said that he had fielded several calls from residents asking why the bridge was not being cleared of snow. He brought the request to the council and to Town Manager Marian Anderson.
The 187-foot trestle stretches from North Street Bridge across the Meduxnekeag River and is designed to give walkers easy access to historic downtown Market Square, the adjacent park and playground and the trails along the river.
In December 2005, town officials closed the footbridge to traffic during winter.
That did not deter some people from ignoring the town’s decision, and crossing the cement barriers that blocked both entrances to the bridge.
In 2006, the town took down the barricades and erected signs warning people that the bridge would not be maintained during the winter.
Stewart said that there is no entrance for the town’s sidewalk plow on the Market Square side of the bridge, due to a curb that blocks its path. He said that public works employees could take the machine, turn at the Riverfront Park entrance and come back up through to clear snow.
“The machine is extremely heavy, however,” he said. “I am not sure of the weight of the deck of the bridge. The sand or salt we would put on it also would go into the river.”
Councilor Chris Robinson said that he would like to see the bridge cleared during the winter.
“I feel it is beautiful,” he said. “I’d like to see it plowed for usage. It is too nice to sit there with a load of snow on it all winter long. I also can’t believe that it is healthy for the deck of the bridge to have all of that snow sit on top of it all winter long. If you had a deck at your house and you didn’t shovel it and let snow pile up on it, it would deteriorate faster.”
Anderson wondered if it was possible to use a heavy-duty walk behind snow blower to clear the bridge.
“We could possibly do that,” he said. “But I also think we can get in there with our own equipment and do the majority of the work. It could be something we do after all of our other work is taken care of.”
Councilor Hal Britton also said that several people had asked him about opening the bridge, and chairwoman Jane Torres said she’d like to see it open.
Councilors decided to move forward with the plan to clear the bridge in the winter.