State And Fed Transportation Officials Face Lawsuit Over Frank J Wood Bridge

Sep 11, 2019

Historic preservation groups are suing state and federal transportation officials in an effort to save a steel bridge that connects Brunswick and Topsham.

Credit Maine.gov

The Maine Department of Transportation decided last year that building a new bridge would be more cost effective than upgrading the 87-year old Frank J. Wood Bridge.

The lawsuit alleges that the decision was based on inaccurate cost analysis figures.

It’s also alleged that the MDOT decision violated a federal transportation law aimed at protecting historic lands and properties, unless there are no feasible alternatives.

Elizabeth Merritt, an attorney with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says there is an alternative, which is preserving the iconic bridge “It's not just about enforcing a legal policy, from our perspective, but also there's this enormous local, community support, passionate support, for preservation,” Merritt says.

DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill says the Department understands the importance of historic preservation.

“It's important to us, but there are literally dozens of other factors that go into a decision about a bridge,” Merrill says.

Merrill says the Frank J Wood decision was reached after a fact-based two-and-one-half-year long engineering and environmental assessment, overseen by the Federal Highway Administration. He says the project ensures both public safety and responsible public funding.