TOPSHAM — A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Maine Department of Transportation’s bid to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge between Topsham and Brunswick.

The nearly-90-year-old bridge to carry Route 201 and Route 24 traffic over the Androscoggin River.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker’s ruling was filed Wednesday.

The state’s decision to demolish the 89-year-old truss bridge was controversial. Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation sued in September 2019, alleging the Federal Highway Administration and Maine Department of Transportation relied on inaccurate information to artificially inflate the projected costs of rehabilitating the existing bridge. MeDOT has denied those claims.

MeDOT maintains that building a new bridge would be more cost-effective than upgrading the structure.

Former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note were named among the defendants named in the suit.


The plaintiffs contend in the lawsuit that it would be more feasible to renovate the bridge, which has been deemed eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

The plaintiffs also allege that tearing down the bridge and replacing it would violate the National Environmental Protection Act because the state has failed to evaluate the project’s impact on the fish passage at the Brunswick Hydroelectric Dam.

“I am not persuaded that remand for supplemental decision making is appropriate. In short, there is nothing at all irrational about the Agencies’ decision to look at the Frank J. Wood Bridge Project the way they did, let alone anything on the order of caprice that would warrant my rejection of the Agencies’ refusal to commit to inordinate future spending necessary to keep the Frank J. Wood Bridge in service,” said Walker in a 40-page ruling.

Paul Merrill, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Wednesday the total estimated bridge replacement cost is $21.8 million for engineering and construction. If the department goes out to bid in July for the project as expected, construction could begin late this fall.

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