TOPSHAM — John Graham, the public face of a community group that wants to see the Frank J. Wood Bridge that connects Brunswick and Topsham rehabilitated, said the Maine Department of Transportation’s process related to the bridge’s future has been biased from the start.

And he said he has evidence to back up his claim.

“We’ve felt from the beginning that this has been a stacked deal,” Graham said during an interview Friday morning. “If you went to that meeting (Wednesday), it clearly shows a bias.”

The DOT and Federal Highway Administration hosted the project’s environmental assessment meeting at Mt. Ararat High School Wednesday that brought more than 250 people and strong opinions about what the agencies plan to do to the 87-year-old bridge.

The DOT said its preferred alternative is to replace the deteriorating truss bridge with an upstream structure that would take about three years and cost around $15 million.

Graham — president of Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge — said he thinks that has been its plan all along without much regard for public sentiment.

“They’re only showing you the bridge all painted, pretty people walking on the sidewalk and they aren’t showing us what that looks like with (a rehabbed) bridge,” he said.

Graham said the DOT officials purposely show the worst parts of the bridge, and he said his organization obtained documents — including emails — that show the transportation department has been pushing their preferred plan from the beginning.

In one email from April 2016 read Wednesday, DOT bridge program manager Joel Kittredge asks a senior official at T.Y. Lin International engineering firm to look for the “absolutely worst, ugliest, restricted and most corroded” images of the bridge for a presentation.

The DOT hasn’t shown any renderings of what a rehabbed Frank J. Wood Bridge would look like, Graham said, but instead, it’s only shown pictures of a new bridge.

“People think that all they do is show rust pictures over and over and over, and all of that stuff would be replaced when they put in a new deck,” he said.

The “green bridge” has been individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, which Graham said means it should be protected. There is no disputing that  maintaining historical properties is more expensive, and he acknowledges that it’d be cheaper long-term to maintain a new bridge.

Graham, however, said the community discussion should be whether there should be a second sidewalk or about how wide the travel and bike and pedestrian lanes should be. There shouldn’t be any question about rehabbing the bridge, he said.

“When you weigh all the alternatives and consider that DOT said it is possible to rehab the bridge, you should rehab the bridge. The meeting went as we expected, where MDOT spent a lot of time talking about the deteriorating condition of the bridge.”

The heavily traveled bridge is the main thoroughfare between downtown Brunswick and Topsham and carries about 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 during the meeting Wednesday,

For more than an hour Wednesday night, more than two dozen people spoke in opposition of the DOT proposal.

Topsham resident Kevin Hoffman said he isn’t sure the two agencies consider people’s feelings when they decide what to do with this type of project. He said a lot of people like the character of the current bridge.

Annie Carter, a student in a local welding program, said the DOT’s report was biased in favor of building a new bridge.

Ann Carroll, a member of the Friends group, said the historic Summer Street district where she lives will be profoundly impacted if the DOT moves ahead with its plan, and Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton said the organization strongly believes in rehabbing the bridge.

There were plenty of people at Wednesday’s meeting who expressed support for the DOT plan, including Curtis Picard, of Topsham, head of the Retail Association of Maine, and Kathy Wilson, of Brunswick.

Wilson said her uncle was the first person to drive across the bridge when it first opened, and she called it a “rusty piece of junk that blocks the view of a beautiful river.”

Picard said traffic disruption would have an impact on the areas’ businesses.

Matthew Porter, of Topsham, said he drives across the bridge several times a day for work.

“I hate it,” he said. “It’s the worst part of my day.”

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.

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 rapid deterioration of structural steel.

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