Maine Department of Transportation officials are looking for public feedback as they begin analyzing whether to rehabilitate or replace the aging and heavily traveled two-lane bridge connecting downtown Brunswick and Topsham.

On Wednesday evening, DOT officials will hold a preliminary public meeting to discuss future improvements to the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which carries more than 18,000 vehicles a day on Route 201 over the Androscoggin River. Crews are slated to perform joint repairs and other maintenance of the truss bridge this May and June; however, the department plans to unveil recommendations for the span’s longer-term future this fall.

The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Topsham Public Library’s Highlands Community Room, will be for DOT representatives to hear the public’s concerns and interests before staff begin crafting an engineering recommendation, said Joel Kittredge, project manager with the department. Kittredge said the bridge project – whether a rehab of the existing structure or building a replacement – is tentatively slated to begin in 2018, pending funding.

“All options are on the table,” Kittredge said of the future plans for the bridge.

Built in 1931, the span – sometimes referred to as the “Green Bridge” – dominates the Androscoggin water frontage in both downtown Brunswick and Topsham, but has seen better days, as the green paint on the three trussed superstructures has given way to rust. Additionally, traffic often backs up along Route 201 – which serves as Maine Street in Brunswick and provides access to Topsham’s busy commercial district – on either side of the two-lane bridge, especially during the summer tourist season.

The construction of the Route 196 bypass connecting Topsham’s commercial district with Route 1 just east of downtown Brunswick significantly improved traffic flow through an area that Kittredge said used to be dubbed “the 30-minute mile” because of the congestion across the bridge. The deck, superstructure and substructure of the 815-foot-long bridge are all rated as being in “fair” condition.

“That bridge carries a lot of traffic and that is why we need to take care of it,” Kittredge said.

Topsham Town Manager Richard Roedner said everyone knows something needs to be done with the aging bridge, but there is disagreement within his community about solutions. Some people would like to rehabilitate and restore the existing bridge to maintain its style and shape, while others want a new bridge. But because of the bridge’s visibility in two historic towns, Roedner said, many people want to make sure any new structure is more aesthetically pleasing than a simple concrete span.

Roedner said he hopes the governments in Topsham and Brunswick will be able to agree on the best long-term solution for the bridge. In the meantime, a Topsham committee is also looking at ways to improve traffic flow and make other enhancements in the “Lower Village” near the bridge.

“From my perspective, I am certainly going into this meeting with an open mind to hear what the DOT has to say and what the public has to say,” Roedner said.

Both the state and federal governments would likely provide funds to replace or rehabilitate the bridge.