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Home >Maine Public Bridges >Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Q) What is a “bridge”?

A) A "bridge" is defined as having a span length of more than 20 feet, in accordance with Federal law. It also includes multiple pipes over a certain size.

Q) What is a “minor span”?

A) A "minor span" is defined as having a span length of 10 to 20 feet.

Q) How does the Program work?

A) Local Bridges are divided between MaineDOT and Towns by size, with MaineDOT responsible for all larger bridges and the Towns responsible for smaller spans on Town Ways. The responsible party decides how and when improvements will be made. More specifically, the new Program groups structures as follows:

  1. "Bridges" on Town Ways and State Aid Highways with a span of more than 20 feet (excluding Low Use Redundant Bridges)
    • The State has capital and maintenance responsibility for these bridges, relieving Towns and Counties of local cost-sharing.
  2. "Minor Spans" on State Aid Highways with a span between 10 and 20 feet.
    • The State has capital and maintenance responsibility for these structures, without local cost-sharing.
  3. Minor Spans on Town Ways with a span between 10 and 20 feet.
    • Towns have capital and maintenance responsibility for these structures. MaineDOT continues to provide technical advice to Towns upon request.
  4. Bridges on Town Ways (more than 20 foot span) which have an average daily traffic of less than 100, and/or an average daily traffic multiplied by detour length of less than 200.
    • These bridges are really a local issue, serving only a handful of residences and/or are very near to another bridge crossing. The Town has full maintenance responsibility whereas capital responsibility may be shared between the State and the Town. The Town's cost share is the lesser of 50% or more of the cost, or 1% of the Town's valuation, and the State will pick up the remainder.

Q) How did the "old" Local Bridge Program work?

A) MaineDOT biennially prioritized Local Bridges, and offered each Town an opportunity to participate in the improvement of priority bridges. Upon petition, MaineDOT performed preliminary engineering and notified each Town of the scope and associated costs. Local cost-sharing was calculated by a complex formula which considered relative use of the bridge and the Town valuation. Town cost-shares ranged from 1% to 65%, with the average being about 28%. Local cost-sharing was capped at ½ of 1% of the Town's valuation. In a few cases, Counties also had a share. Capital and maintenance responsibility were often not with the same entity, resulting in little incentive for local maintenance that would extend the life of these structures.

Q) Which bridges were affected by the 2001 legislation?

A) All bridges which were eligible for the old Local Bridge Program. Generally, these are bridges on State Aid Highways and Town Ways. There were 1,716 Local Bridges.


Q) Was this a fair deal for the Towns?

A) Yes. Towns did become responsible for smaller spans on Town Ways, some of which could have been improved under the "old" Local Bridge Program with partial State funding. However, it is likely that the cost to the Towns for these smaller spans could equal or be less than the amount that the Towns could’ve paid as cost-sharing under the "old" Local Bridge Program. If Towns find lower cost local solutions as expected for smaller spans, then Towns as a group will pay less under this new Program.


Q) Why were the changes to the old Local Bridge Program good for all units of government and the infrastructure?

A) Towns

  • were relieved of capital and maintenance responsibility on most larger bridges.
  • now have complete local control to decide how and when smaller spans on Town Ways are improved.
  • assumed responsibility for smaller spans in better condition than the larger bridges that MaineDOT became responsible for (Average Condition Rating of 5.66 vs. 4.97).
  • continue to have access to MaineDOT technical advice for these smaller spans.
  • are free to improve these smaller spans, which can generally be replaced with culvert-type structures, with streamlined project delivery methods not available to MaineDOT (such as using Town forces, local procurement methods, and solutions without a Professional Engineer's seal for projects less than $100,000).
  • are still able to assist MaineDOT with setting priorities for larger Local Bridges.

A) MaineDOT

  • can focus its capital and maintenance efforts on larger bridges that need it.
  • can save State Highway Fund dollars by better leveraging Federal funds, since only bridges with a span of more than 20 feet are eligible for Federal funding.
  • can fulfill its responsibility for bridge safety by continuing to inspect all smaller spans and larger bridges every two years.
  • can deliver the larger bridge projects more quickly, without the cumbersome process of calculating cost-shares, letters offering projects, Town funding authorization, preparing Town billing, processing Town payments, and resulting delays.

A) Counties

  • were relieved of cost-sharing for all Local Bridge Program projects, except when acting for unorganized townships.

A) Local Bridges in general

  • received "more bang for the buck" by putting more dollars into "product" instead of process.
  • benefited from sound, long-term maintenance practices, since capital and maintenance responsibility generally rests with the same entity.
  • receive increased attention, since MaineDOT is now completely responsible for over ¾ of the need by deck area plus 50% of the capital cost of the Low Use / Redundant Bridges.

This page last updated on 8/22/11