BRUNSWICK — Maine Department of Transportation officials on Wednesday said repairs needed on the Frank J. Wood Bridge are not related to the agency’s impending decision about whether to replace the bridge in 2018.
But in the meantime, heavy trucks are being told to steer clear of the so-called “Green Bridge” between downtown Brunswick and Topsham.
In response to findings from a recent inspection, MDOT on Monday said the posted weight on the bridge will be reduced to a maximum of 25 tons.
At a press conference Wednesday on the Brunswick side of the bridge that carries Route 201 over the Androscoggin River, Bridge Maintenance Engineer John Buxton said the inspection revealed localized damage, specifically in the ends of the bridge floor beams and connection plates.
That means the structure can still handle large vehicles, such as cement mixers, fire trucks, school buses and ambulances. But vehicles with five or more axles will be prohibited and directed to a one-mile detour.
The emergency repairs will keep the bridge in safe condition for the several years it will take before the DOT will either replace or rehabilitate the bridge, which was built in 1932. Until that decision is made, the 25-ton weight posting will stay in effect.
“My job is totally different” from those making the decision about whether the bridge should be replaced, Buxton said.
DOT spokesman Ted Talbot called the maintenance a “separate action” from the decision about a replacement bridge. He later said DOT continues to have internal discussions about the fate of the bridge, and is “not at all sold” on whether it should be replaced or rehabilitated.
The indecision gives hope to members of the community, like The Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge. They want to save the bridge because its antique aesthetic and green color have acquired a symbolic status in the community.
Talbot said DOT will ultimately make the final decision, and will not be swayed by community opinion until that point.
“We’ll engage with those groups and committees” – meaning the Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge and the Brunswick and Topsham-led Design Advisory Committee – “once those decisions have been made,” he said.
In the meantime, bridge maintenance is expected to begin this fall and will last a month to five weeks. Buxton estimated the cost of repairs will be around $800,000, with the potential to reach as high as $1 million.
He said most of the repairs will take place beneath the decking and will affect traffic minimally.
Maine Department of Transportation workers prepare to install weight-limit signs Tuesday on the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which carries Route 201 between Brunswick and Topsham.
A tractor trailer crosses the Frank J. Wood Bridge on Tuesday, two days before a new weight limit took effect due to structural deficiencies.
Spokesman Ted Talbot, left, and Maine DOT Bridge Maintenance Engineer John Buxton discuss the Frank J. Wood Bridge at a press conference Wednesday, Aug. 17, in Brunswick. The maximum vehicle weight on the bridge been reduced to 25 tons.