Commercial traffic will no longer be allowed to cross the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham.
That comes after a September inspection found the historic bridge afflicted with cracks, severe section loss, rust and corrosion.
The new weight restrictions, set in October, prohibit any vehicles weighing more than 10 tons, or 20,000 pounds, from using the bridge. That includes large trucks, buses and vehicles with more than two axles, according to the Maine Department of Transportation.
“Too many vehicles were not complying with the ten-ton limit,” Joyce Taylor, a chief engineer for the Department of Transportation, said Tuesday morning. “Restricting the bridge to all commercial traffic will make enforcement efforts easier. We need to take these steps to extend the life of the current structure until we can replace it.”
Cameras and license-plate readers have been deployed at the bridge to enforce the weight restrictions.
In response to the bridge’s deteriorating condition, the town of Topsham began diverting its fire engines to the Route 1 bypass, which transportation officials said other overweight vehicles will need to use to cross between the two towns.
The fate of the steel-truss bridge has turned into a legal fight, with a group of residents advocating that the Frank J. Wood Bridge, built in 1931, be rehabilitated rather than replaced.
The most recent estimate to rehabilitate the bridge is $15 million, with the total cost of maintaining the bridge over a 75-year span reaching up to $35 million. Replacing the bridge, though, would cost an estimated $13 million, with the total cost including maintenance over a 100-year span adding up to $17.3 million, according to the Department of Transportation.
Those costs are likely higher now due to rising steel and labor costs.
“We understand and respect the passion of the relatively small group that wants to keep the existing 90-year old bridge, but the reality is this bridge is in poor condition and getting worse,” Taylor said. “The extended debate and legal challenges have cost all Maine people many years and many millions of dollars. Given the condition of the existing bridge, the reliability and cost-effectiveness of the new bridge, the planned enhancement of pedestrian and bicycle amenities, and the support of local officials, the time has come to move forward as soon as possible.”