Mt. Ephraim Road culvert on short list for replacement

Two week detour planned
By Fran Gonzalez | Jan 02, 2019

Searsport — A culvert that connects a small, winding stream with Mill Brook by way of Mt. Ephraim Road is in need of attention, according to Doug Coombs of the Maine Department of Transportation.

Coombs, a senior project manager for the Midcoast area, gave a detailed presentation at the Dec. 18 selectmen's meeting about a culvert replacement project slated for 2020.

The culvert, which traverses Mt. Ephraim Road between a red-roofed garage and Coastal Cuts & Family Hairstyling, has been deemed by MDOT as being in "poor to critical" condition. "It is safe to travel over, but there is deterioration along the inverse of the pipe," Coombs said.

To make matters more complex, existing water and sewer utilities lie 2 feet below the culvert, which means the new culvert will need to be placed on top of those lines.

"Typically they would embed the pipe (culvert) but in this case the pipe can't be embedded because of the existing utilities," Coombs said, and the costs of having the lines moved would be "extreme."

There is also fish passage to contend with. "To make it so the water flows back into the pipe and stays in there for fish passage," Coombs said, five internal weirs and two weirs downstream are planned.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a weir is a low dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow.

The downstream weirs would be built using rip rap (natural rock or rubble), Coombs said.

Selectman Doug Norman said, "I'm the guy with the garage," referring to the red-roofed garage adjacent to the culvert. Norman went on to express his concerns about flooding and erosion near his garage. He said it would be beneficial to time the construction during the water's low-point during the summer.

Coombs assured Norman the timeline for construction would be between July 15 and Sept. 30, 2020, and that it would most likely take 14 days to complete. During the two-week construction time, water would need to be diverted and pumped over to the other side of the road, according to Coombs. There would need to be a "dry hole" for construction to commence, he said.

Mt. Ephraim Road would be completely closed off at the culvert, and the most likely detour would take drivers through Prospect Street and Old County Road, a 3.4-mile roundabout route. Two weeks prior to construction, MDOT plans to put up signs alerting drivers to the upcoming detour.

Coombs said every two or three years crews inventory all the culverts in the area and  "this one came back as having issues." He went on to say the deficient pipes are placed on a master list and "we start working on them as we have funding — this one has been on the list for a while."

Selectman Dick Desmarais asked why they planned the construction so far in advance.

Coombs said that in his experience, it takes approximately 300 days to get all of the required rights and permits. "These plans now are 50- to 60-percent complete," he said, adding they plan on advertising for bids in early 2020.

The existing culvert made of corrugated metal pipe will be replaced by a pre-cast concrete box spanning 8 feet across and 5 feet high by 72 feet long (across the road) with a final price tag of $480,000.

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