The Topsham Select Board on Thursday signed a proclamation backing plans to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge.

The 91-year-old bridge connecting Topsham and Brunswick over the Androscoggin River has been a hot topic since 2014, when both towns started working with the Maine Department of Transportation to build a new structure. The project was delayed after a local activist group, Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge, opposed tearing down the historic span and filed a lawsuit.

Since then, the bridge has continued to deteriorate.

Topsham Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky said over the past year, new weight restrictions were imposed on the bridge, impacting the town’s public safety and local economy. He said the weight restrictions prohibit fire trucks from crossing the bridge, putting residents at risk. In addition to public safety concerns, he said limitations placed on the bridge could negatively impact businesses in downtown Topsham and at the Topsham Fair Mall.

Previously, the weight limit on the bridge was 25 tons or 50,000 pounds, but in October 2021, the weight limit decreased to 10 tons or 20,000 pounds. The average ambulance weighs up to 14,000 pounds and the average fire truck can weigh up to 60,000 pounds. The new weight restrictions came after MDOT inspected the bridge and determined it was rapidly deteriorating.

Scrapchansky said if they move forward now with new construction, the town will be able to use the existing bridge for a short period of time, but if construction is delayed long-term, that will no longer be an option. He said if the bridge closes completely or more restrictions are imposed on it, traffic on Route 196 will become a bigger problem since it is already congested in the mornings and afternoons.


Despite a recent lawsuit filed by Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge, the town has decided to move forward with MDOT’s plans for new construction. The group previously filed a lawsuit in 2019, along with two other groups, alleging the Federal Highway Administration and MDOT relied on inaccurate information to “artificially inflate the projected costs of rehabilitating the existing bridge,” according to a previous Times Record article.

In 2017, the Maine Department of Transportation estimated a new bridge would cost $13 million initially, with a 100-year service life-cycle 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.

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

Since 2017, MDOT’s cost estimates have more than tripled to $42 million, which the department said is partly due to delays related to the 2019 lawsuit by Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation.

Board Chairperson David Douglass said it is a shame these delays are happening because debris is falling from the bridge daily.

“Every single day, that bridge is worsening,” he said. “That thing’s dropping stuff into that river repeatedly, whether it be rusted parts or, I guarantee you, there is some form of lead paint left on that thing and it’s dropping in the river. I can’t imagine we ever stripped it all the way down. It’s time that we just move forward with this process.”

The final paragraph of the two-page resolution signed by the Select Board reads as follows: “Be it further resolved that the Town Select Board of the Town of Topsham supports no further delay to the construction of a new bridge, which is necessary to prevent additional risk to the local economy and the public’s safety, welfare, and convenience.”

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