by Elisa Hawkes
Coastal Journal staff
BRUNSWICK/TOPSHAM — A safety inspection on the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham took place on Monday, May 21, through Wednesday, May 23. The routine inspection of the bridge, spanning the Androscoggin River, was part of a bi-annual bridge safety inspection on truss-style bridges throughout the state.
According to bridge inspection Program Manager Ben Foster, the Frank J. Wood Bridge is in “fair-but-safe” condition. Foster oversees the program and examines the final inspection reports.
Foster said the bridge was rated “fair” because there were age-related signs of distress. According to Foster, the bridge joint showed signs of deterioration, causing the bridge to vibrate more than it should. This causes parts of the bridge to loosen. The bridge joint, according to Maine DOT Public Information Officer Ted Talbot, is the transition portion from the ground to the actual bridge.
Foster said work has already started to co-ordinate efforts to repair the bridge joint, which should take place in the fall. According to Foster, additional measurements must be obtained before any work can begin.
One such measurement is the structural load rating, which he said is determined for all of the bridges. The structural load rating refers to examination of bridges to determine the live load, or weight, that structures can safely carry.
Foster said the bridge joint will be fixed temporarily and further measurements will be taken prior to permanent repairs. This will enable them to decide what needs to be done to the bridge. He says the work to be completed on the bridge is routine maintenance.
According to Foster, “Plenty of lead time will be given prior to the start of work on the bridge so the area can prepare for any inconvenience.”
Foster said the May inspection included such tests as measuring the thickness of the plate members to show if there was any section loss over time. This refers to the trusses above the bridge, and the connection plates.
Foster reiterated that the bridge is safe for all legal loads. The fair rating was due to age. The work to be done is maintenance to make sure the bridge stays safe.
The initial bridge inspection was performed by Parsons-Brinckerhoff, a global consulting firm with engineering offices in Boston and New Hampshire.
In May, northbound motorists on Route 201 and Route 24 were detoured to Route 1 east to Route 196 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the initial inspection. Southbound traffic was allowed on the bridge.