This lightweight truss bridge appears to have been constructed to carry a pipeline across the southern channel of the river between Factory Island and the mainland. Both the island and mainland are home to an impressive collection of historic factory and mill buildings, many of which have apparently been adaptively reused by University of Maine-Saco. The truss bridge no longer carries a pipe line, and the approach on the northern (island) end has been removed. However the truss span itself remains with good historic integrity. The builder is unknown but at least some of the steel was produced by Phoenix, since Phoenix brands were found on the steel.
One would think that given the historic setting with all these historic buildings, and the need for a pedestrian bridge at this location, that restoration of this historic bridge and conversion for pedestrian use would be a no-brainer. The bridge is in decent condition and would be all to easy to have someone like Bach Steel restore and convert to pedestrian use, where it could be expected to have the service life of a brand-new steel bridge. Yet sadly, this is not what is being done and instead what is being done is beyond belief. This bridge is to be demolished and replaced with a mundane prefabricated mail-order pedestrian bridge! This modern bridge will lack heritage value and will fail to harmonize with the historic buildings around it. One news article noted that Saco Economic Development Director Peter Morelli said "Both cities have considered converting the pipe bridge for the project but it wasn't any more economical than what we are already doing, and it wasn't guaranteed to have a long life." The cities must not have considered it real hard. The idea that the historic bridge if properly restored would not have a long life is ridiculous. If properly restored by a firm that has experience in this type of work it would be both cost-effective and would result in a like-new bridge that could probably last a century.
This is only the latest in a sad line of demolitions to occur in recent years in Maine, which has one of the worst historic bridge preservation track records in the country. Highlights of this track record include demolition of a landmark David Steinman suspension bridge, demolition of one of the largest concrete rainbow arch bridges in the northeastern United States, demolition of the last remaining pin-connected highway truss bridge in the entire state. And now, we have the demolition of a bridge to make room for a mundane Mail Order Bridge for pedestrians, when the historic bridge would have been absolutely perfect for reuse as a pedestrian bridge! It is one thing to demolish a historic bridge, but it is another thing to demolish a bridge when the path to preservation is so clearly feasible and cost-effective.
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