A plan to replace a deteriorating historic midcoast bridge is moving forward.
The Maine Department of Transportation has received a final determination from the Federal Highway Administration allowing the agency to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Topsham to Brunswick.
The Department of Transportation will advertise the Frank J. Wood Bridge replacement project for construction bids starting Wednesday. It plans to award the construction contract soon thereafter. On-site work is expected to begin in the late spring.
Once complete, the towns of Brunswick and Topsham will be connected by a reliable new bridge, located on a curved upstream alignment, that will feature enhancements requested by a local design advisory committee.
Designed to last at least 100 years, the new bridge will have sidewalks on both sides, including pedestrian viewing bump-outs, wider shoulders on both sides, parks on both ends, special railings, lighting and other design details, and unobstructed views of the natural and architectural features of the area around Pejepscot Falls.
The current bridge, built in 1931, is in such poor condition it must be inspected every six months.
The more than 90-year-old bridge has deteriorated significantly in recent years, with the state Department of Transportation posting weight limits and banning all commercial vehicles and firetrucks and school buses from traveling across.
The state has long fought to replace the structure, but was met with legal challenges from community members who want to preserve its historic significance.
In 2017, a preliminary estimated construction cost of a new bridge was $13 million. Due to a legal fight and process delays and a concurrent market increase in construction costs, the new bridge is now expected to cost more than double its preliminary estimate.
The Department of Transportation said in October 2022 it will now cost an estimated $33.5 million to replace the bridge.