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Group Sues to Preserve Historic ME Bridge

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

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Working to preserve a historic bridge located in Maine, preservation groups recently filed a lawsuit against Elaine Chao, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, among others, citing that the bridge in question could be renovated rather than replaced.

The Frank J. Wood Bridge, also known as the Green Bridge, was opened in 1932. According to Maine Preservation, the 805-foot-long steel-truss bridge supports 19,000 vehicles daily.

Green Bridge History

Historic Bridges reports that the structure is among the state’s more significant bridges due to it being one of the larger surviving metal truss bridges. Maine Preservation also notes that the bridge was opened as part of the Workers Protection Administration’s initiative regarding America’s infrastructure.

In May 2016, MDOT announced its intention to demolish the bridge, which spans the Androscoggin River, a waterway that divides Topsham and Brunswick. The structure would be replaced with a concrete bridge upstream. The catch is that the decision was made prior to beginning historic and environmental reviews that would help assess if the historic bridge could be saved.

Maine has lost 47 historic Warren Through-Truss bridges since 1999, 23 of which were qualified for or on the National Register of Historic Places. The Green Bridge was also dubbed eligible to be on the Register. Whatever decision is made moving forward, the fact remains that the bridge deck needs critical maintenance that will cost up to $800,000. Other structural issues, including the deterioration of truss bars and floor beams, will also need to be addressed within the next five years. Repair and replace options currently fluctuate between $13-17 million. The bridge is also not functionally obsolete.

Recent Lawsuit

In the recent lawsuit, three preservation groups—the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States and the Historic Bridge Foundation—argue for renovating the bridge, and that replacing the structure outright would violate the National Environmental Protection Act because there have been no state assessments regarding the passage of fish at the nearby dam.

For now, those who filed the lawsuit request that the court halt construction of a new bridge until NEPA has been complied with. Last year, the state department reported that building a new structure would be more cost-effective at about $13 million up front and another $17.3 million for maintenance over the new bridge’s 100-year lifespan. On the other hand, renovations on the existing bridge are estimated to cost up to $17 million, with service-life costs totaling more than $35 million.

MDOT spokesperson Paul Merrill noted that engineers deny the allegations made in the lawsuit.

“The decision was reached for this project after a fact-based and thoughtful, two-and-a-half-year-long engineering and environmental assessment overseen by the Federal Highway Administration,” Merrill said. “MDOT’s job is to ensure public safety and be responsible with public funding; our conclusion on this project achieves both.”

If the project moves forward, work is slated to bid in August of next year, with construction beginning in winter 2021 and completion likely to wrap up in 2023.                                                                                   


Tagged categories: Bridges; Environmental Protection; Historic Preservation; Infrastructure; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

Comment from Mario Colica, (9/11/2019, 3:21 AM)

No mention is made to what kind of measures will be adopted for maintenance and preserve the truss of the bridge against rust. Is the Zinc metallization, which is the most effective and radical and long life , forcatsed?. I'd like to know which is the final decision.

Comment from john kern, (9/12/2019, 9:25 AM)

WOW! I find myself in a some what of a dilemma. I can relate to this elderly bridge because I was also found to be deteriorating and some thought needed to be retired. As a result i started to think maybe they were right. Replace me with new blood, new ideas, stronger mussels to carry the load, And then I was approached by a small group of others who thought historical knowledge needed to be preserved. I was still functional and did benefit my community by adding one of many pathways for historical knowledge in my crossing of time. So, with the expertise of medically engineering, the expert engineers got together, looked into my specific needs, developed a plan that would not bankrupt my family and started repairs. Many of my piers assisted in my rehabilitation. There were a lot of volunteers, much charity to help with the cost, neighbors helping neighbors, bridging the gap. My strength was restored, my color enhanced, my historically data retained. I now have full functionally, I train engineers, inspectors and assist contractors via the history of my existence as the younger engineers probe me for knowledge. I am one of the few that remain to bridge the gap between the old and the new, There will be a time that I will no longer be able to retain my function ability, But today is not that day. Is there any reason why our industry cannot come together, contractor joining efforts with others to supply no cost labor (charity), paint manufacturers supplying no cost paint (charity), the community coming together to supplying some paint tools and or donations (charity) to help offset costs. It is sad that we often think of only ourselves and our needs and forget the historical value of items that surround us. From my point of view it appears the older structures tend to last longer than the new and quick structures. I'm willing to donate to the restoration of this bridge, both technically and monetary. How about you, are you willing to step up to the plate and swing the bat? Let the government build the new bridge, but let us keep the old. ps, thanks to all who have rebuilt me - God bless ya. jk

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