Historic Brunswick-Topsham bridge's roadway set for removal

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BRUNSWICK — The roadway of the historic Black Bridge connecting the towns of Brunswick and Topsham is set for removal later this year.

The project is moving forward after both towns declined last year to pay $750,000 of the $1 million required to repair the 318-foot bridge, which was built in 1909.

Funding for the roadway’s $244,000 removal was announced last week as part of the state Department of Transportation’s $2 billion, three-year work plan.

DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said the Black Bridge removal project will go out to bid in May and is expected to begin sometime in late summer or early fall.

The roadway of the bridge was closed in April 2011, after a vehicle crashed into its pressure-treated guard rail and steel suspension rods. An inspection at the time revealed “severe deterioration of the timber stringers, steel floor beams and hangers,” Talbot said.

“After closure, DOT investigated ways to repair and reopen the structure but none were considered practical or cost-effective,” Talbot said. As a result, the roadway was closed permanently in July 2011.

Before the closure, the bridge had allowed alternating one-way vehicular traffic from Mill Street in Brunswick to Bridge Street in Topsham.

Talbot said removing the bridge’s roadway was ultimately recommended “due to the redundant nature of the bridge and the high cost of fixing it.”

The roadway portion of the bridge sits below a railroad tier, which is currently not in use but is expected to remain part of the bridge for the foreseeable future, he added.

As part of the work plan, DOT is also expected to roll out nearly $10 million of new equipment purchases and infrastructure improvements for Brunswick Executive Airport, beginning this year and continuing through 2016.

Talbot said 90 percent of funding for the airport improvements is coming from the Federal Aviation Administration for the purpose of converting the former naval air station into a civilian facility.

The improvements will help attract more aviation companies, Talbot said, like Kestrel Aircraft and Tempus Jets, which already established themselves at the former base, now known as Brunswick Landing.

Other local DOT-funded projects include the replacement of the New Meadows #2 Bridge connecting Brunswick and Bath, and a study to determine if the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham should be replaced or fixed.

Work on both projects is expected to occur in 2016.

“The development of the capital work plan is a department-wide effort that reviews and prioritizes all bridges statewide based on condition and need,” Talbot said.

Part of DOT’s funding for the work plan comes from a $150 million bond approved by voters last year, $100 million of which will be used for transportation projects, estimated to support about 2,800 jobs in the construction industry.

Like the airport improvements, a majority of funding for other projects in the work plan will come from federal sources, Talbot said.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.

Sidebar Elements

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled the removal of the roadway portion of the Black Bridge for later this year. The 105-year-old bridge spans the Androscoggin River, connecting Topsham and Brunwick.