The federal government must pay nearly $84,000 in legal fees for a group fighting to save the aging bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham.
That comes as the Maine Department of Transportation moves closer to demolishing the Frank J. Wood Bridge and building a new one spanning the Androscoggin River.
The Friday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker found not all the arguments from the Maine Department of Transportation were justified, and his order covers nearly 70 percent of the Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge’s legal fees, according to The Times Record.
That conclusion was based in part by a January ruling in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that found the state agency and the Federal Highway Administration had not discounted future maintenance costs in current dollar equivalents, the newspaper reported.
The Maine Department of Transportation has argued it’s justified in demolishing the Frank J. Wood Bridge because the costs of renovation exceed those of building a new bridge. It estimated that rehabilitating and maintaining the bridge over a 75-year span would cost up to $35 million, while building and maintaining a new bridge would cost up to $17.3 million over a 100-year span.
Those costs are likely higher now due to rising steel and labor costs.
The court instructed the agency to work with the Federal Highway Administration to further justify its cost analysis or affirm that the higher cost of repairs found using a different methodology was significant.
The bridge, built in 1932, has been deteriorating in recent years, with a September inspection finding parts of the Frank J. Wood Bridge cracking, severe section loss, rusting and corrosion.
Its condition has prompted new weight limits prohibiting commercial vehicles, school buses and fire trucks from crossing the span.
Since the state announced in 2017 that it will replace the aging bridge, the Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge has launched a legal fight to keep it standing. The group hopes Friday’s decision will revive efforts to stop the bridge’s destruction, according to The Times Record.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated which agency was ordered to cover 70 percent of the Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge’s legal fees.