National Trust Applauds Frank J. Wood Bridge Court Ruling
The historic Frank J. Wood Bridge is an iconic connection between the towns of Topsham and Brunswick in Maine and is a key part of the Brunswick Topsham Industrial Historic District. The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) proposed to demolish this historic bridge and replace it with a generic concrete bridge, an action opposed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Historic Bridge Foundation and Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge.
The National Trust is pleased that, on January 4, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a decision recognizing a serious flaw in the methodology used by the highway agencies when they decided to demolish the bridge rather than to rehabilitate it. The court has vacated the decision that would permit the demolition to proceed. The court ruled that the agencies’ analysis of alternatives must conform to standard practices to ensure an objective comparison of costs, which this agency decision failed to do. The winning arguments in the case exposed discrepancies between the cost estimates adopted by the agencies and a fair, objective evaluation.
“This court decision is of national importance,” said Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel at the National Trust, “because it demonstrates that highway agencies cannot invent cost estimate methodologies that are designed to result in the loss of treasured historic resources like the Frank J. Wood Bridge.”
In the three years since the Federal Highway Administration previously approved this project, significant aspects of the proposed project costs have changed. The National Trust encourages the agencies to reconsider the decision to demolish, and the National Trust will continue to work with its preservation partners to encourage the agencies to undertake in good faith a more objective reevaluation of the true costs of replacing versus rehabilitating the historic Frank J. Wood Bridge.