Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge and the National Trust for Historic Preservation claim the bridge is a historic site and dispute estimated repair costs.
The Frank J. Wood Bridge between Brunswick and Topsham is pictured on April 27, 2016. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Groups are suing to stop plans to tear down a historic but rapidly deteriorating midcoast bridge.

There’s been a years-long fight over the future of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, connecting Brunswick and Topsham.

The Maine Department of Transportation, which argues a new bridge is long overdue, planned to start taking bids in early March, with construction starting in the spring.

Designed to last for 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 surrounding Pejepscot Falls site, according to the department.

The current bridge, built in 1931, has deteriorated significantly in recent years, with weight limits barring heavy vehicles, including all commercial vehicles, emergency vehicles like fire trucks and school buses, from traveling across it. The bridge needs to be inspected every six months.

But the group Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge and the National Trust for Historic Preservation claim the bridge is a historic site, and in the new lawsuit, they dispute estimates pegging the cost to repair the bridge as greater than replacing it.

A Department of Transportation spokesperson maintains replacing the Frank J. Wood Bridge remains the “solution” for Brunswick and Topsham, saying this latest lawsuit “continues to press erroneous arguments” about costs.

“The delay from the previous lawsuit has cost considerable money and time. There has been marked increases in construction costs during the delay — increases that impact both new construction and rehabilitation. As has been found, a new bridge will cost less than rehabilitating and maintaining the 92-year-old existing bridge,” the spokesperson said, adding the Frank J. Wood Bridge continues to “deteriorate” as the fight plays out in court.

In 2017, replacing the Frank J. Wood Bridge was estimated to cost $13 million. Now that cost has risen to an estimated $33.5 million after years of legal delays, the Department of Transportation said in October 2022.