School buses and fire trucks will no longer be allowed to cross the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Topsham and Brunswick. Credit: CBS 13

A beloved bridge between Topsham and Brunswick is facing a growing number of issues.

Fire engines, school buses and box trucks will have to take a different route between the two towns because of a new weight restriction.

A September inspection found many issues, with parts of the Frank J. Wood Bridge cracking, severe section loss, rusting and corrosion. In response, the Maine Department of Transportation is limiting bridge traffic to vehicles under 10 tons in the interest of preserving public safety.

“We’re going to have to add a couple more trucks to the list of vehicles that can’t go over the bridge like our engines,” Topsham Fire Chief Chris McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the town has been dealing with this for years, with crews already used to taking the Route 1 bypass instead, but this could impact the department’s mutual-aid response times.

“If we’re going to downtown Brunswick, we’re getting all the way around, so our response would have normally been a minute and a half and it’s probably going to be closer to five now,” McLaughlin said.

How long this lasts depends on when the bridge can be replaced, but there’s been an ongoing legal battle over the issue.

Even with the new findings and weight restriction, some in the area believe the bridge still can be repaired.

“It’s really actually not in terrible condition. The bridge deck needs to be replaced and that’s not abnormal,” Phinney Baxter White with Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge said.

The last time that happened was nearly 50 years ago, though the bridge has undergone repairs since then.

“If anyone wants to know why the bridge is in this kind of condition, look to the MDOT. They’re the ones that let it get to this state,” White said.

The state said rehabilitating the existing bridge would cost twice as much over a 75-year lifespan compared with a 100-year life span of a new bridge. The Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge group disagrees with the numbers and argues there’s federal funding available to cover most costs.

“Why not paint it? Why not replace the deck and still have this historic structure?” White said.

For now, because of the state’s latest findings, the bridge will have to be inspected every six months.