Maine Department of Transportation says construction of the Frank J. Wood Bridge’s replacement may begin later this year.

MaineDOT says unless unanticipated new issues arise, it plans to advertise for construction bids to replace the Brunswick-Topsham bridge this summer or early fall. The announcement comes after a new Federal Highway Administration draft finding confirms that the cost of rehabilitating the Frank J. Wood Bridge is greater than the cost of replacing it, according to MaineDOT.

“For MaineDOT, this project has always been about ensuring a safe and reliable connection between these two communities,” MaineDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note stated in the announcement Tuesday morning. “The Federal Highway Administration has again confirmed what we have long known to be true: that the safety, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of our new bridge plan is the best solution. State and federal agencies with the responsibility for this bridge crossing, as well as local officials, have determined that our new bridge plan is solid. Now is the time to move forward and serve the broader public interest to better connect these two villages.”

Constructed in the 1930s, The Frank J. Wood Bridge connects downtown Brunswick with Topsham. Inspections over the last few years have shown it is deteriorating. MaineDOT says recent inspections show “severe section loss and aggressive deterioration” to the point that the department banned all commercial vehicles from using it in November 2021.

MaineDOT has sought to replace the bridge, but has met opposition from The Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge, which had sued to stop the project, in hopes of preserving and rehabbing the 90-year-old structure. The group was joined in the suit by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation.

While a federal court rejected many of plaintiffs’ arguments in March, it agreed that DOT and the FHA had erred in the way the agencies calculated the future costs of maintaining the bridge. The court ordered the Federal Highway Administration to reassess and clarify its approval of MaineDOT’s plan for the bridge, prompting this week’s draft finding.


MaineDOT has blamed the ballooning cost of the project on delays in getting the process started. The department estimated the cost in 2017 at $13 million. This year, the total cost is now $33.5 million.

“In simple terms, the years of delay have at least doubled the cost of the project – reducing bridge improvements that could be made across the state,” the department stated.

The replacement bridge, which will include improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists, is designed to last for at least 100 years.

The Maine Department of Transportation will post the highway administration’s findings on its website on Wednesday afternoon at Comments on the finding will be accepted for 30 days — until August 26 — can be made at that website. The highway administration will then review all substantive comments.

The Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge said the organization will not comment until it has a chance to review the highway administration’s findings.

The next inspection of the existing bridge is scheduled for late September.

“Deterioration of a steel truss bridge like this one does not always happen in a linear, predictable fashion,” said MaineDOT Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor. “We are inspecting this bridge every six months. As its condition worsens, we will continue to take steps to make sure it remains safe to cross. We understand the negative impacts that postings have on the nearby communities. Unfortunately, we cannot rule out that additional use restrictions may be necessary between now and when the new bridge is opened to traffic.”

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