TOPSHAM — One person said a new bridge over the Androscoggin River that connects Brunswick and Topsham would have a “brontosaurus of a steel beam.” Another person said the current bridge is ugly and called it a rusty piece of junk.

Plenty of other opinions were offered Wednesday evening as well, during a public meeting hosted by the Federal Highway Administration and Maine Department of Transportation, regarding what to do with the Frank J. Wood Bridge.

More than 250 people attended the project’s environmental assessment meeting at Mt. Ararat High School, which was scheduled to end at 8 p.m. but was extended almost another hour so that everyone who wanted to speak got a chance.

“I look forward to having a new bridge that my family can use,” said Curtis Picard, of Topsham, head of the Retail Association of Maine.

He said the impact on business owners would be considerably greater if the decision is made to rehabilitate the bridge rather than replace it.

However, Ann Carroll, a member of the community group Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, said the new bridge would be an eyesore and would profoundly impact Summer Street, a historic part of Topsham.

The meeting began with a 45-minute presentation about the project and assessment, which is just one part of the investigation into the impacts the bridge project could have, including historical, economic, cultural and traffic.

Bridge program manager Wayne Frankhauser, Jr., showed several photos highlighting the bridge’s deteriorating condition and discussed the six alternatives considered by DOT.

John Graham, president of Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, said the meeting was an opportunity to correct many misconceptions he said have been stated without any verification.

“The Friends have been fighting to have all of the alternatives looked at fairly and equally, and to date, we feel this has not been achieved,” Graham said.

He said had the DOT done the maintenance they promised to do to this bridge over the last 60 years ago, this meeting wouldn’t be necessary.

“There is no question (rehabilitation) can be done and is feasible,” he said.

The 805-foot, 87-year-old bridge, which has carried traffic between Brunswick and Topsham since 1931, was recently determined to be individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The two agencies have considered whether to fix or replace the bridge over the Androscoggin River for years.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of work that’s gone into this,” Frankhauser, Jr., said.

The DOT said replacing the bridge with an upstream structure, which would take about 3 years and cost around $13 million, was the preferred alternative. More than several dozen people visually and audibly showed their approval of that plan.

The substantial determining factors for choosing to replace the bridge included the long-term costs of rehabilitation – approximately double the cost of replacement – and improved safety and accommodation of bicycle travel, the department said.

The heavily traveled bridge is the main thoroughfare between downtown Brunswick and Topsham and carries approximately 19,000 vehicles a day. With its advanced age, however, the bridge has begun to show structural problems, identified in multiple engineering reports and pictures shared at the beginning of the meeting Wednesday.

An inspection in June 2016 lowered the bridge’s condition from fair to poor, and in August 2016, heavy trucks weighing more than 25 tons were prohibited from using the bridge after an inspection showed “ongoing and fast” deterioration of structural steel.

Four options were thoroughly considered by the department, including building a new bridge at the same location, estimated to cost between $13 million and $16 million, and two renovation options costing between $15 million and $17 million.

Graham said no matter the cost or who pays for the project, the Frank J, Wood Bridge is an icon in the area and one of the most recognizable structures in Maine.

“You see a picture of (the bridge) and you know immediately where you are,” he said. “It is the image banks use on their advertising, the phone book uses on its cover and what Bowdoin College uses to recruit prospective students.”

Public comments will be accepted until April 11 by visiting maine.gov/mdot/env/frankjwood.