The Maine Department of Transportation began advertising the Frank J. Wood Bridge replacement project for construction bids Wednesday, after the Federal Highway Administration again agreed that rehabilitating the 90-year-old span wasn’t feasible due to high costs.

“It’s been a long process, but we look forward to delivering the new bridge to better connect these two communities and the travelers of Maine,” DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in a press release. “It will be safe, reliable and serve all users well, including motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The future Frank J. Wood Bridge, which each day serves 19,000 vehicles traveling between Brunswick and Topsham, has been a topic of controversy since the DOT released plans to replace the structure six years ago with a new bridge designed to last 100 years. Along with two other national organizations, local group Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge sued the department and the Federal Highway Administration, arguing the government had wrongly inflated the estimated cost of rehabilitating the bridge, which the plaintiffs say has historical significance.

As the court battle stalled the project in the following years, cost estimates for the project rose from $13 million in 2017 to $42 million, according to the FHA’s recently finalized reevaluation. That figure still represents a significantly cheaper alternative than repairing the structure, the report affirmed.

That finding, which came after a federal judge ordered the FHA to reassess and clarify their approval of the project last January, has finally cleared the way for work on the bridge.

The DOT expects to accept bids for four weeks and award a contract soon after, according to the release. Work on the bridge, which the department estimates will take about two-and-a-half years, should begin this spring.

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