GROVELAND — Within three years, drivers who cross the Merrimack River between Haverhill and Groveland will have a safer and smoother ride — and it will cost taxpayers far less than the state expected.

A construction company from Maine with more than a half-century of bridge building experience has won the contract to erect a new Groveland bridge.

The state has accepted a bid of $45 million from Cianbro Corp. to replace the century-old Congressman William H. Bates Bridge — better known as the Groveland bridge — which carries Routes 97 and 113 over the Merrimack River. State officials initially estimated the job would cost $65 million, said Adam Hurtubise, Department of Transportation spokesman.

Construction of the bridge will likely take two to three years, said Anthony Komornick, transportation program coordinator for the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, which works with the state on such projects. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

The Groveland bridge is deteriorating. In the last two years, it has been common for workers to make repairs, often shutting down one of its two lanes to traffic.

Groveland police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz said he anticipates the new bridge, along with an improved traffic signal, will "ease the flow of traffic in the (Groveland) square" on the south side of the bridge. Getting through Groveland Square, especially during rush hour, can be frustrating for drivers, the chief said.

The new bridge will be built a short distance downriver from the current bridge, state officials said. During construction, the current bridge will remain open and will be dismantled after the new span opens, they said.

Komornick said the new bridge will "definitely not be a truss bridge" — the style of the current bridge. Komornick said the new Groveland bridge may be similar in style to the new Comeau Bridge, which the state finished in 2007. The Comeau, at the western end of downtown Haverhill, has no overhead supports. It replaced a decades-old deteriorated bridge in that location.

The new Groveland bridge also will have "period" lighting that will be compatible with the historic-style streetlights in Groveland Square, Komornick said.

Cianbro, headquartered in Pittsfield, Maine, a small town 30 miles west of Bangor, Maine, is building a new Brightman Street Bridge over the Taunton River, between Fall River and Somerset. Alan Grover, spokesman for Cianbro, explained that a new bridge was needed because many vessels are too large to pass under the present span.

Cianbro also is building the underpinnings for the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, which carries the Connecticut Turnpike, also Interstate 95, over the Quinnipiac River in New Haven, Conn.

Two years ago, the company built the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, which carries Routes 1 and 3 over the fast-moving Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine. Grover said the structure bears a resemblance to the Leonard Zakim Bridge in Boston.

"It's quite striking to look at from a distance," he said.

Cianbro is not limited to building bridges, though that has been the company's principal activity since its founding 60 years ago, Grover said. The company built the Fox Islands wind power project, which uses the wind to generate electricity for Vinalhaven and North Haven, Maine.

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