The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge needs repairs to the tower on the Brunswick side that experts say might lead to the bridge’s long-term closure if they aren’t repaired.  

Last week, the Brunswick Town Council approved an emergency allocation of $60,000 from the undesignated fund balance so the work can begin immediately. According to Nancy Randolph, head of the nonprofit dedicated to saving the bridge, repairs to the buckling metal need to be done before the first heavy snowfall. 

“I don’t think any of us in good conscience could let people go over it” without knowing it was fixed, she told the town council. 

A condition assessment by Hoyle, Tanner and Associates rated the Brunswick tower in “poor condition,” with a four out of nine rating. Freeport-based CPM Constructors will replace the tower’s bottom channels, baseplates and channel anchor bolts and plates. 

Randolph estimated that nearly 500 people cross the bridge, which connects Brunswick and Topsham, each day. 

She apologized for not giving the council more notice, especially during a time when budgets are stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic, but stressed that there was still a sense of urgency. 

“I know that we’re not feeding children, we’re not housing people,” she said, “but what we are doing, we are providing a way for people to walk from one town to the next, both ways. I would urge you to spend out of your contingency, and I’m so sorry to have to ask that.”

The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge was built in 1892 so residents of the Topsham Heights housing development could easily get to and from work at the Cabot cotton mill in Brunswick. It was built by John A. Roebling Sons Co., the same engineering firm that designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge.

The developers never promised to maintain the bridge, and in 1906 the structure was accepted as a public highway and the two towns accepted maintenance responsibility. 

Over the years, the bridge fell into disrepair and a 2000 study found that without repair it would not last beyond 2010.

In 2002, the two towns appointed a committee to explore the feasibility of raising the money to repair the bridge. The group helped secure a more than $300,000 Department of Transportation grant, funded the rest, and in 2007 began renovations, according to Randolph. 

In 2004 the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

Council Chair John Perreault was the only vote against spending the money, a decision he said was partly because “we as a town are not doing our due diligence by not having our own engineers looks at it.” 

“I understand the rush,” he said, “but it’s a lot of money. To have something sprung on us like that without more time. … It’s something that (doesn’t) very often happen in the town of Brunswick.”

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