The Stackpole Bridge in Saco was built in 1848 at the request of local farmers who sought a direct roadway to connect their farms with the mills in Biddeford and Saco. The bridge is noted for its keyhole-shaped vaulted stone arch that rises 21 feet over the Stackpole Creek. The bridge is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. It remains the oldest stone bridge on a public road in Maine.
The bridge has been monitored for signs of structural instability for over a decade, with specific attention given to its dry-laid masonry base. The bridge was limited to one-lane traffic in 2002. In May of 2013, the bridge was closed indefinitely to all traffic after an inspection by the city’s structural engineering firm found the bridge to be unsound. The closing of the bridge presents a problem for many of the citizens, as well as public safety officials, who rely on the structure for the most direct access between homes and the town. All are now forced to seek roundabout routes.
Many residents in Saco have rallied to protect the bridge in the hopes of restoring the historic structure and again opening it to two-lane traffic. Neighbors and other community members formed the Friends of Stackpole Bridge, to support restoration of the bridge, rather than the State’s preferred option of replacing the structure with a metal span and concrete abutments.
In June 2013 Voters rejected a bond that sought to borrow $1.7 million to restore Stackpole Bridge. City officials have expressed concern with the future of the bridge and are actively pursuing funding alternatives and collaborating with a committee focused on the effort to save the architecturally significant structure. Replacement costs for the bridge may be lower than rehabilitation costs, but repair must be estimated at the maximum cost given uncertainty of the structure below the surface. The benefit of restoring the structure is that this 165-year-old span is likely to far outlast any replacement.