Historic preservation groups want the state to renovate the 87-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge between Brunswick and Topsham, seen here in 2016. The state contends that would be far more expensive than replacing it with a new structure. (File photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)

If at first you don’t succeed, file a lawsuit.  At least that appears to the be strategy by three groups who are trying to save the “historic” bridge between Brunswick and Topsham.  These groups are suing to stop the Frank Wood Bridge from being replaced by a safer, less costly alternative. 

The bridge’s friends have tried for at least a year to retard the process of working to do something with the bridge.  Their contention then was that the bridge could be rehabilitated.  The bridge’s life can be extended.  Really?  Their rehabilitative ideas mean smacking some new steel on the bridge and give it a new coat of paint.   

Voila!  Good as new.   

When that scheme did not gather steam the friends had to find another lane to drive on.  Now the friends of the bridge insist that there were not enough studies.  Not enough tests were run.  And the results from the tests that were run were based on faulty data.   

The groups have additionally brought up the quality of life of the fish that use the fish ladder at the dam and how they have studied the bridge, appreciated the bridge and enjoyed the bridge.  All of the reporting on this makes me wonder if the lawsuit was filed by the bridge’s “friends” or by the Care Bears.   

The fact is that if you saw the front page of Tuesday’s The Times Record you saw that the “Green Bridge,” as it is referred to, is not green.  No, the bridge is a varied shade of brown and that brown is rust.  The steel that makes up the bridge is 87 years old.  It is tired.  It has lived a long life of heavy traffic and vibrations.           

You want to save a house that is almost 90 years old, have at it.  You want to save an object that is nearly a century old?  Great.  Neither of those items are responsible for transporting thousands of people daily.  Neither of those objects face the stress and strain that a structure built in 1932 faces today.  Nevermind that traffic today and vehicles produced for today’s driving are vastly different from the models that were being churned out of Detroit just after the Great Depression. 

The State’s Department of Transportation has studied the bridge and they decided that the best course of action was not to rehabilitate the structure but was to build anew.  The State DOT even determined that the cost of building new was financially beneficial as opposed to rebuilding the old bridge.  All of this is not enough though because the “friends” believe the State is intentionally fudging the numbers.   

I guess the lawsuit is taking the birdshot approach.  Shoot enough rounds and eventually something may hit the target.   

My hope is that this current lawsuit will get thrown out rather soon.  If it must go on I hope that the suit is settled and a new bridge is built before a piece of steel fall of the bridge and injures someone.  Of course, that may give the “friends” something else to study.     

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected].