Construction started in July on the replacement of the Frank J. Wood Bridge. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

The Maine Department of Transportation has won a major legal victory in its efforts to replace the 91-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge linking Brunswick and Topsham.

A federal judge last week denied a preservation group’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of a replacement bridge, which started last month and is expected to be completed by 2026. The bridge’s demolition is scheduled toward the end of the project.

Judge Lance Walker rejected the motion, which was filed by the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, a group comprised of local residents who organized to save the bridge; Waterfront Maine, which owns the Fort Andross Mill Complex by the Brunswick side of the bridge; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; and the Historic Bridge Foundation. The injunction sought to force the department to stop construction on the new bridge, which has a simpler design without the old bridge’s signature triangular superstructure. The groups have argued repairing the 91-year-old bridge would be cheaper and preserve its historic importance as one of the few remaining truss bridges in the state.

The MaineDOT has maintained that the bridge needs to be replaced. It said it was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“This decision is further confirmation that it is in the public interest to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge,” the department said in a statement. “We look forward to delivering this project to provide a safer, more reliable crossing for the people of Brunswick, Topsham and the surrounding communities.”

Representatives of the historic groups could not be reached for comment Monday. After the judge’s ruling, they filed a motion saying they intend to appeal.


The groups claim the MaineDOT did not follow federal historic preservation standards for its plan to replace the bridge and intentionally underestimated the cost of replacement so it would be favored over repairing the bridge.

“I am not convinced that it is likely I will find that the agencies (including the Maine Department of Transportation) have conducted themselves in an arbitrary fashion,” Walker wrote in his order denying the preliminary injunction. He wrote he will issue a final ruling on the matter this fall.

Woolwich-based Reed & Reed was awarded a $49.9 million contract to build the new bridge, which will have sidewalks on both sides, bicycle lanes, “bump-outs” for pedestrian viewing, wider shoulders and parks on both ends. It’s expected to last 100 years.

The Federal Highway Administration in 2017 determined that a new bridge would cost $13.7 million to build and $21 million to rehabilitate the existing structure, extending its life by 75 years. The replacement project was supposed to begin in 2019, but the groups filed a lawsuit that the MaineDOT said delayed the project for years and resulted in an inflated price tag due to soaring construction costs.

John Graham, president of Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, said last week the bridge is an “icon of Brunswick and Topsham.”

“It has proved it would be significantly cheaper to rehabilitate,” he said. “It doesn’t make taxpayer sense, and the bridge that’s going in there is not fitting for that location.”

In October 2021, the transportation department set a weight limit of 10 tons on the bridge, meaning large vehicles like fire engines and commercial trucks can’t cross it, worrying town officials on both sides of the bridge about safety and the effect on the local economy. The Brunswick Town Council and Topsham Select Board earlier this year signed a proclamation backing the bridge’s replacement, and state representatives from the two towns recently signed a letter saying the bridge’s replacement is in the public’s interest.

The bridge will remain open during most of the construction; road closures are expected in 2025.

A rendering of the new Frank J. Wood Bridge. Courtesy of Maine Department of Transportation

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