The Topsham Select Board will meet Thursday to potentially authorize the signing of a municipal-state agreement for maintenance if the Frank J. Wood Bridge is replaced, according to Topsham Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky.

The agreement concerns the cost and maintenance of a park that would reside next a new bridge and was a step the Maine DOT requires before they can move forward with the project.

The debate over whether to replace or refurbish the bridge connecting downtown Brunswick and Topsham has been simmering since 2016.

A local group hoping to preserve the existing bridge, Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge, sued the Maine Department of Transportation in 2016 to stop the replacement. The Frank J Wood Bridge was built in 1932 and is one of the largest metal truss bridges built during the Great Depression, according to the Maine Preservation Organization.

The state has long had concerns about the safety of the bridge due to its deteriorating condition. With a reported 19,000 vehicles crossing the bridge each day, the Maine Department of Transportation enforced a 25-ton weight limit in October 2016.

In its lawsuit, the Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge accused Maine’s Department of Transportation of inflating the difference in cost between repairing the bridge, versus replacing it.


That year, the Maine Department of Transportation estimated a new bridge would cost $13 million initially, with a 100-year service life cost of $17.3 million. In contrast, the repair options ranged from $15-17 million in initial costs and $35.2-$38.2 million for service life-cycle costs, according to a previous Times Record article.

“We used the best estimates available at the time to give a fair comparison of the alternatives,” said Maine DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill in a previous Times Record article.

Boston courts ruled to have the Maine Department of Transportation team up with the Federal Highway Administration to get a more accurate estimate of the cost difference between replacing or repairing the bridge.

The Federal Highway Administration determined in 2017 that a new structure would cost $13.7 million to build and $21 million dollars to rehabilitate the existing structure. That is a 53% difference. In 2018, Federal Highway Administrator Cheryl Martin told Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge members that alternatives to replacing the bridge were no longer an option.

“We’re past that point at this point in time,” Martin said at the time.

The proposed replacement will be curved on an upstream alignment, with a more open design, compared to the existing bridge. Travel lanes will remain 11-feet wide, but 5-foot shoulders and 5-foot sidewalks will be incorporated into the design; currently, there is an existing 2-foot shoulder with 2-feet of open grid on each side.


The legal battle over the bridge has caused extended reviews of the existing structure and driven up costs, said Merrill.

“The project has been in limbo since the court filing,” Merrill said.

Efforts to reach members of Friends of Frank J. Bridge were unsuccessful.

The Topsham Select Board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on May 5 at the Topsham municipal building, with a livestream option at

This story was edited at 2:45 p.m. May 9 to reflect the fact that the agreement between Topsham and the state concerned the cost and maintenance of a park that would reside next to a replacement of the Frank J. Wood bridge.

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