2017-02-17 / Front Page

Future of ‘Green’ Bridge in limbo

MDOT awaiting report on how ‘fix or replace’ options impact historic properties
Times Record Staff

THE FRANK J. WOOD BRIDGE, as seen from Fort Andross in Brunswick during a January snowstorm. 
LISA D. CONNELL / THE TIMES RECORD THE FRANK J. WOOD BRIDGE, as seen from Fort Andross in Brunswick during a January snowstorm. LISA D. CONNELL / THE TIMES RECORD TOPSHAM

The future of the Frank J. Wood “Green” Bridge that connects downtown Brunswick with Topsham is still up in the air.

Maine Department of Transportation is weighing whether to rehabilitate the bridge or replace it, and is waiting for the Federal Highway Administration to complete a review of how those options impact nearby historic properties.

The federal agency is looking at the effects of five different bridge project alternatives on the historic properties in order to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act.

MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot said Thursday that process is taking longer than expected, and so any construction wouldn’t take place until 2019.

The highway administration on Feb. 2 released findings on the impact on properties at the Summer Street Historic District, Cabot Mill, Pejepscot Paper Company, and a small industrial area referred to as the Brunswick Topsham Industrial Historic District, or “BTIHD.”

Two proposed plans for rehabilitation plans would have no impact on the properties.

Building a new bridge, whether in the current bridge location, upstream or downstream, would have adverse effects, according to the findings, because the bridge is a contributing resource to the BTIHD.

“The removal represents a degradation of the integrity of design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association of the BTIHD,” according to the 241-page document. “Additionally, the integrity of setting of the Cabot Mill and PPC would be diminished because the bridge represents one of the last remaining pieces of transportation infrastructure originating from the mills’ (period of significance).”

The document notes that a curved upstream bridge replacement alignment would require a small “right-of-way take” from the Cabot Mill property.

Similarly, building a bridge downstream would require “a small take” from the Pejepscot Paper Co. on the Topsham side of the river.

The highway administration is accepting comments on the draft document until March 6, and will hold a public meeting specific to the overall plan sometime that month.

Topsham Economic and Community Development Director John Shattuck said after March 6 he expects the highway administration to consider comments and release a report with recommendations on mitigation, with another 30-day comment period.

Meanwhile, Shattuck said the Brunswick-Topsham Bridge Design Advisory Committee will soon be ready to give MDOT recommendations on bridge design.

The committee has already decided the undercarriage of the bridge should be neutral gray to match the ledge below, have 6-foot sidewalks on each side, 5-foot bikeways, 11-foot travel ways, and traffic calming measures such as a colored bike lane.

Committee members have discussed railings, but have been split on what to do with the texture of the concrete, and still need to address lamp posts and integration of the bridge into the site.

The committee will meet March 8 at 6 p.m. at Brunswick Town Hall.


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