Construction of new Brunswick-Topsham bridge could start in 2018

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BRUNSWICK — Construction of a new bridge carrying Route 201 over the Androscoggin River could start in 2018.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at the Southern Maine Community College campus, in the L.L. Bean Learning Commons & Health Science Center building No. 1, 29 Sewall St., at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 27.

The Maine Department of Transportation, with engineering services provided by the T.Y. Lin International Group, has been looking into options for replacing or rehabilitating the 85-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge between Brunswick and Topsham.

After weighing options, and degrees of impact to traffic, operations and structures on both ends of the bridge, DOT is proposing to rebuild the structure just upstream of its current location.

A new bridge could cost about $12-13 million, compared with $10 million for rehabilitation.

“The project objectives really were improvements … that would promote safety and mobility,” Norm Baker of T.Y. Lin told the Town Council on Tuesday.

The existing bridge is about 800 feet long, with a 5-foot sidewalk and a 30-foot roadway – two feet on either side of which is not usable by bicycles, because of open-grid decking, Baker said.

The structure, which needs strengthening to meet current load conditions, has a federal sufficiency rating of 52 on a scale of 100, Baker explained.

“Fifty-two is close to allowing or recommending a replacement option,” he said. “Fifty is the cut-off.”

Major rehabilitation took place in 1985 and 2006, with joint sealing between the spans and at the ends of the bridge accomplished last year.

Rehabilitation is the less expensive option in terms of initial costs. It would have less environmental impact, could maintain the existing alignments, and not affect rights-of-way or utilities, Baker said.

But that option would displace traffic, have a 30-year life span as opposed to 100 years with replacement, and would require future inspections that are expensive and disruptive to traffic.

Paying $13 million “for an additional 70 years, I would think that’s obviously a no-brainer, even for this state,” Councilor John Perreault said. “So I think it’s a great plan.”

A new bridge would have two sidewalks and support bicycle traffic, as well as reduced inspection and maintenance costs and more safety improvements. Building upstream versus downstream would also have fewer impacts, Baker said.

The new structure would be 835 feet long, with a 32-foot roadway and 5-foot shoulders, as well as 5-foot sidewalks.

While only $8 million is available now for the project, “this project is enough of a priority that we fully expect that it will receive funding,” with a target of beginning construction in 2018, Joel Kittredge of DOT told the council.

Miller Point

Town Manager John Eldridge on Tuesday gave the council an update on a coastal stabilization project at Miller Point.

The project first came to the council’s attention March 7, when Richard Knox of Simpson’s Point Road and other neighbors claimed the town had failed in its oversight of the project by not requiring local permits.

The council reached a compromise April 4, unanimously deciding the landowners, Robert and Nancy King, would consent to improve the design of their earth stabilization project and have it verified by a professional engineer.

Councilors thought most of the project’s work, including regrading an eroding slope and stabilizing it with “rip rap” boulders, would be put on hold until an engineer chosen by the Kings and the town approved the final plans.

But on April 5, councilors learned from photos provided by Knox that work had been done on the property without authorization.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Eldridge said Tuesday. “The owners have agreed to stop work until we put in place the … engineering review.”

A new engineer is working for the Kings, he said, while an engineer will also be working on behalf of the town.

“We’re expecting the engineers to get together; we’re hoping to meet later this week, to go over … the next steps in the process,” Eldridge said. “The owners have been cooperative. … There won’t be any work until the agreement’s executed.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Norm Baker of T.Y. Lin International on Tuesday shows Brunswick councilors a design for a replacement of the Frank J. Wood Bridge. The 1931 structure spans the Androscoggin River between Brunswick and Topsham.

Construction on a replacement of the Frank J. Wood Bridge could begin in 2018.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.