Construction site at the Frank J. Wood Bridge. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

Contractors mobilized this week to start early stages in a project that will ultimately replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge that links Brunswick and Topsham over the Androscoggin River, despite a multi-year legal battle with a local group that hopes a pending request to halt the project comes through.

Woolwich-based construction company Reed & Reed is expected to complete the $49.9 million project by 2026. The Frank J. Wood Bridge will remain open during construction, but residents should expect some road closures in 2025.

The 91-year-old steel truss bridge will be replaced by a four-span steel plate girder and concrete structure. The new design includes sidewalks, wider shoulders, pedestrian viewpoints and lighting fixtures, according to Paul Merrill, Maine DOT director of communications.

The bridge replacement has been delayed for years by legal battles with the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation to stop the project and preserve the existing bridge.

“From the very beginning, it has been the icon of Brunswick and Topsham,” said John Graham, bridge group president. “As time goes by, it has proved it would be significantly cheaper to rehabilitate. It doesn’t make taxpayer sense, and the bridge that’s going in there is not fitting for that location.”

The Federal Highway Administration determined in 2017 that a new structure would cost $13.7 million to build and $21 million 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.


Merrill said the significant price increase of the new bridge — $49.9 million — was due to legal process delays as well as increases in construction costs.

“The Maine Department of Transportation received a final determination from the Federal Highway Administration in January that allows the department to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge,” Merrill said. “This finding came after a years-long, exhaustive federal regulatory and legal process. That process confirmed MaineDOT’s original conclusion that the safety, reliability and cost-effectiveness of replacing the bridge is the best solution.”

Topsham town officials said they support the “immediate” replacement of the Frank J. Wood Bridge. Brunswick officials also have backed the project.

“The Frank Wood Bridge is experiencing advanced deterioration and has progressed to the point that a replacement is now necessary from a safety, economic and environmental perspective,” said Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky. “The replacement of the bridge is also critically important to the connectivity, economic vitality and quality of life for both Topsham and Brunswick residents. Local businesses in each town have been impacted due to customer safety concerns and other implications associated with posted weight restrictions.”

Merrill said construction of the new bridge is scheduled to finish in late 2026 but will be open to traffic earlier than that. He said the new bridge will last at least 100 years.

Members of the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge are still waiting for a ruling on their injunction and said if they are denied they will have to go back to the drawing board.

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