The Frank J. Wood Bridge.
The Frank J. Wood Bridge between Brunswick and Topsham is pictured on April 27, 2016. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Replacement of the aging Frank J. Wood Bridge has officially begun after a six-year legal fight.

The new $49.9 million bridge is expected to be completed by late 2026, but will be open to traffic before that, Maine Department of Transportation spokesperson Paul Merrill told The Times Record.

The 91-year-old steel truss bridge linking Topsham and Brunswick will be replaced by a four-span steel plate girder and concrete structure, Merrill told The Times Record. The new design includes wider shoulders and pedestrian viewpoints.

The state originally announced plans to replace the bridge in 2017 after determining the bridge was “structurally unsound.” Since then, weight limits have prohibited fire trucks, school buses and other large vehicles from using the bridge.

A later September 2021 inspection found the historic bridge afflicted with cracks, severe section loss, rust and corrosion.

It was originally determined replacing it would be $8 million cheaper than repairs. But the cost to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge has since increased from $13.7 million to nearly $50 million, which Merrill told The Times Record was due to “legal process delays as well as increases in construction costs.”

Construction has been delayed for years because of a  legal battle waged by Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation to preserve the existing bridge.

“From the very beginning, it has been the icon of Brunswick and Topsham,” the group’s president, John Graham, told The Times Record.

The Maine Department of Transportation received a final determination to replace the bridge from the Federal Highway Administration this past J anuary.

Topsham officials support the “immediate” replacement of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, according to The Times Record. Brunswick officials also back the project.

Sam Canfield is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and the Bangor Daily News' newest sports reporter. He loves to examine the narratives and motivations behind Maine's most exciting athletes...