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June 29, 2018

MDOT to replace 86-year-old Brunswick-Topsham bridge

Photo / James McCarthy
Photo / James McCarthy
The Maine Department of Transportation has decided to replace the 86-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge, spanning the Androscoggin River between Brunswick and Topsham, instead of renovating it, as some local advocates had preferred.

The Maine Department of Transportation announced this week that, pending an environmental assessment, it will move forward with plans to replace the 86-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge, spanning the Androscoggin River between Brunswick and Topsham.

The Times Record reported that Federal Highway Administration's Cheryl Martin told members of Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge that alternatives to replacing the bridge are no longer being sought.

According to MDOT, the bridge is 815 feet long, 30 feet wide and was rehabilitated in 1985. More recently, the substructure was rehabilitated and the bridge rail and curbs were improved in 2006.

According to the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge Facebook page, the Friends have been actively involved with the federal review process and urged MDOT to do an analysis of rehabilitation options to replace the option of a new concrete highway style bridge over the last open falls below the dam. The Friends hired two engineers who said that rehabilitation for 100 years of continued use is possible and cost-effective.

But Bill Pulver of MDOT's project development bureau said, "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," the Times Record reported. A new bridge will have an open design different from the current bridge. MDOT's cost estimate for the new bridge is $13 million initially, with a 100-year service life cost of $17.3 million. Repair estimates ranged from $15 million to $17 million in initial costs and $35.2 million and $38.2 million service life-cycle costs.

In 2017, Maine Preservation added the Frank J. Wood Bridge to its 19th Most Endangered Historic Places List, an annual listing that identifies historic properties threatened by development, demolition or neglect.

The bridge opened in 1932, serves approximately 19,000 vehicles per day as well as pedestrian traffic. Maine Preservation said it's a good example of a three-span Warren Truss system — a type of bridge once common in Maine and now increasingly rare.

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