Route 1 drivers crossing the Goose River Bridge might not even realize it is a bridge — at least until construction to replace a large box culvert beneath it begins and traffic is rerouted to a temporary crossing.

Maine Department of Transportation officials and engineers hosted a public hearing on bridge replacement plans April 25. Stantec engineer Sarah Williams presented the plans and said the bridge “is not highly visible.”

“You may or may not know it’s there when you drive over it,” she said, showing photos of its Route 1 location, with guardrails and heavy vegetation. Williams said a temporary bridge will be built on the bay side of the existing road that will allow two-way traffic for the duration of construction, which is expected to last until 2021.

The bridge was deemed "structurally deficient" in 2014 and is "reaching the end of its useful service life," Williams said, adding the foundation has not been undermined but there are large cracks in the box culvert.

Goose River Bridge may be best-known for its scenic views of a dam spilling into the bay. Those who live in the area expressed a number of concerns about the project, including how to discourage people from stopping to take photos during construction because the temporary bridge will have narrower shoulders. Speed is another concern of neighbors as well as town officials. Williams said the speed limit will be reduced to 25 mph on the temporary bridge, from the current 35, which drew chuckles.

“We can’t design for how fast people go,” Williams said, adding there are no plans for stop signs or traffic signals.

Belfast Water District Superintendent Keith Pooler raised concerns about the anticipated timeline of construction as well, and said if construction of the temporary crossing begins in fall of this year, “You’re going to run into a water main.”

Pooler said he was under the impression construction of the temporary structure would begin in May 2020.

“If you start cutting on the south side, you could run into the main,” he said.

Maine DOT Senior Project Manager Joel Kittredge said the contractor will determine the exact timeline within a window of dates selected by Maine DOT. He said he would work with city officials around traffic and timelines.

Another problem brought up by neighbors is access. Margaret Massessa owns Lupine Cottage, which sits very close to one end of the temporary bridge. She said just a narrow driveway accesses the property from Route 1, and the access is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time.

“How’s anyone going to get into my store?” Massessa asked.

Williams said it is possible traffic could back up in the area of Lupine Cottage. However, Kittredge said contractors would manage the traffic so as not to block the driveway access. Customers also can get to the business on Old Searsport Road, sometimes called Old Route 1, but only via the east entrance/exit because the western end near the existing bridge will be limited to construction traffic.

Kittredge agreed to meet with Massessa, and City Manager Joe Slocum, on the property to determine options.

“Your point is well-taken here,” Kittredge said.

Councilor Paul Dean, in whose Ward the project will take place, speculated about the additional traffic of construction vehicles and the impact of the heavy, slower trucks entering Route 1. He also asked about safety measures on the temporary bridge.

“Do you plan to install guardrails?” Dean asked. “At least a rope or something so if somebody goes off there, we’ll know it?”

Williams assured Dean the temporary bridge would be safe.

“It won’t be an open edge,” she said.

The need for additional police presence for traffic control is not anticipated, Williams said.

Biff Atlas owns 6 acres around the pond behind the dam, which he said has been approved for development. He wondered about the cutting of trees, which he planted.

“They’re clearly in the state right of way,” Kittredge said. “That is state property.”

Atlas said he planted the trees in the hope of reducing noise from the road, should the property be developed in the future.

“It’s not about walking my dog or anything,” he said.

Williams noted the location of the temporary bridge could “shift a bit” from the design presented, which would impact Atlas’ property. Kittredge said Maine DOT needs at least temporary rights during construction, for which property owners would receive “just compensation” as dictated by federal law.

“This is all very key things; we don’t want to talk about it when the backhoes show up,” he said.

Belinda Pendleton asked about restoration of the area when the temporary bridge is removed at the end of construction.

“Will it be rehabbed? Because it is a very picturesque spot,” she said.

Landscape design is not included in the scope of the project and the area would be graded and seeded, Kittredge said.

“So you’re just going to leave it like the martians have been there?” Pendleton asked.

“That’s standard,” Kittredge said.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Ryan objected to simply seeding the area as well, pointing to his Planning Board experience.

“I don’t think any project would be approved with seeding and walking away,” he said. “It’s a major restoration.”

Kittredge backtracked a bit and said “This is the process with public outreach. We are not above and beyond meeting with people who want to talk later. We can look at this at a high level. It is a beautiful spot. … (But) it is a state right of way, not a beautification project.”

A suggestion for a pullout on the temporary bridge for people to safely take photos was rejected.

“We are concerned always with safety,” Kittredge said. “We would not want people stopping. I’ve not been involved in a project when we encourage people to get out in a construction zone.”

Based on concerns from an initial meeting last fall, Williams noted the shoulders of the temporary roadway were widened to 3 feet on one side and 5 feet on the other, which will allow pedestrian and bicycle traffic to continue to flow.

Kittredge ticked off a list of follow-up items at the end of the meeting and encouraged anyone with concerns to reach out to him. Once a contractor has been chosen, questions will instead go to an engineer, he said.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things here,” Kittredge said. “ … Any landowner affected, we will be seeking you out for a face-to-face.”