TOPSHAM — The Maine Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham instead of rehabilitating the 86-year-old structure as some advocates had hoped.

Cheryl Martin of the Federal Highway Administration told members of Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge that alternatives to replacing the bridge are no longer being pursued.

“We’re past that point at this point in time,” she said during a meeting held Wednesday by the Maine DOT for the parties involved in the process.

Martin said environmental assessments still need to be done later this summer before plans for the new bridge are finalized and construction can begin.

A preliminary plan calls for the new bridge to have an open design and an alignment upstream of the existing span. Travel lanes would remain 11 feet wide, but 5-foot shoulders and 5-foot sidewalks would be incorporated into the design. Currently, there is a 2-foot shoulder with 2 feet of open grid on each side.

The Maine DOT estimates the new bridge will cost $13 million initially, with a 100-year service life cost of $17.3 million. The department said repair options ranged from $15 million to $17 million initially, with service life costs of $35.2 million and $38.2 million.

The friends group had an independent engineer study a rehabilitation option, but was unable to raise enough money to pay for a full report.

“In our engineer’s report there was an alternative that he suggested that’s been done in Massachusetts,” said John Graham, president of the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge. “His initial thoughts were it would be on par with the new bridge.”

The report, which proposed leaving the bridge as is and reinforcing it with steel, estimated the cost of that option would be on par with life-cycle costs of a new bridge.

It was submitted to the Maine DOT, and Bill Pulver of the department’s project development bureau said it was reviewed by their engineers, as well as consultants.

“There was not enough analysis in detail in that report for our engineers to conclude the feasibility from a cost perspective or even a design perspective,” Pulver said.

The Brunswick-Topsham Design Advisory Committee has studied proposals for the areas at both sides of the bridge once it is replaced. Committee member Doug Bennett said the group would like to see a park added to the Topsham side of the bridge, noting that parks at either end would provide sites to honor the history of the area and could incorporate pieces of the old bridge.

“(The report) spends a fair amount of time on what the ends of the bridge would be like and what the opportunities for connecting the bridge well to the park that already exists on the Brunswick side,” Bennett said. “We talked about a number of things that ought to be included in mitigation. We should lift up the unusual ecology of the river. We should also lift up the indigenous people’s use of the falls site in a way our towns are not yet doing.”

The committee also would like to see the economic use of the river honored, he said.

However, some parties are unhappy with how the process has unfolded.

“I would like to observe (that) the absence of solutions for mitigation speaks for itself,” said Christopher Closs of Maine Preservation. “Most of us are still following the normal procedure of your process. I think that this segment of your meeting is entirely inappropriate.”

The MDOT said it is seeking public feedback on how to acknowledge the impact on the historic structure until July 11.

Chris Quattrucci can be contacted at:

[email protected]