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Fate of Androscoggin River bridge suspended for two years

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Fate of Androscoggin River bridge suspended for two years

TOPSHAM — Whether the Black Bridge will be replaced could take at least two years to decide.

The fate of the bridge, which connects Brunswick to Topsham over the Androscoggin River, is in the hands of the Maine Department of Transportation. The motor vehicle tier of the bridge remains closed after a vehicle crashed into the structure's pressure-treated guardrail and steel suspension rods in April.

Earlier this month DOT reported that its engineers had finished an in-depth inspection of the bridge, and that the department would keep the bridge closed until it discusses options with Brunswick and Topsham.

"Right now, in the current budget cycle, there's no money ... for replacement of the Black Bridge, so it's going to be closed for two years," Mark Latti, DOT public information officer, said Wednesday. "And then we need to talk to the towns and decide how to proceed."

Latti said there is currently no money set aside for a preliminary engineering design that would produce a cost estimate, "so we really don't know how much it would cost to replace it at this time."

Previously, Brunswick had asked Topsham to consider having the bridge run one-way, from Topsham to Brunswick, with only right turns allowed onto Brunswick's Mill Street, to alleviate some traffic congestion. Until its closure the bridge allowed alternating one-way traffic.

"We'll wait and see if and when the state will do the repairs to the bridge, and then we'll see what their repairs entail," Brunswick Town Manager Gary Brown said Tuesday.

He said the issue at the Mill Road section of the bridge has been "less a function of number of accidents; it's more a function of how it chokes traffic."

The day before a July 14 meeting that Topsham had planned to garner public input on the bridge's fate, Town Manager Cornell Knight said, DOT was "starting to get indications that the bridge is in really bad shape, and that it wasn't going to reopen."

Knight said DOT will schedule meetings on the matter when it has a plan ready for consideration. He said it is up to DOT to decide whether the bridge will be rebuilt or if one- or two-way travel will be allowed.

"If they do decide to rebuild it, they will consider input from both Topsham and Brunswick," Knight said.

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