Wednesday is the deadline for the public and consulting parties to submit comments regarding the Federal Highway Administration and Maine Department of Transportation’s controversial plan to replace the Frank J. Wood Bridge that connects Brunswick and Topsham.

The two agencies have considered whether to replace the 805-foot, 87-year-old bridge over the Androscoggin River for years. It has carried traffic between Brunswick and Topsham since 1931 and serves about 19,000 vehicles per day.

Since the process began, there have been three public meetings, including one in an open house format, and three consulting party meetings focused specifically on historic resources, according to DOT press secretary Ted Talbot.

The DOT said replacing the bridge with an upstream structure, which would take about three years and cost around $13 million, was the preferred alternative.

The substantial determining factors for choosing to replace the bridge included the long-term coasts of rehabilitation — approximately double that of replacement, according to the DOT — and improved safety and accommodation of bicycle travel, the department said.

The heavily traveled bridge is the main thoroughfare between downtown Brunswick and Topsham. With its advanced age, the bridge has begun to show structural problems, identified in multiple engineering reports.

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.

Last month, more than 250 people attended the project’s environmental assessment meeting at Mt. Ararat High School to listen to a FHA and MDOT presentation and share opinions on the project.

A community group called Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge has accused the DOT and highway commission of bias and said the other alternatives and the will of the people haven’t been considered.

John Graham, president of the Friends group, said the process has been biased from the start, and he said the DOT planned all along to replace the bridge without much regard for public sentiment.

Graham said DOT officials routinely purposely show only the worst parts of the bridge, and he said the transportation department has been pushing their preferred plan from the beginning.

Talbot disputed the allegations of bias and said that all alternatives are receiving fair consideration as part of this process.

“An extraordinary amount of analysis and multiple reviews have been performed by engineers and experts from FHWA, MaineDOT and consulting firms over the last two years in support of this very thorough process that carefully evaluates each alternative,” Talbot said.

“Additionally, Federal and State resource and regulatory agencies, and the public, have been and continue to be consulted during this process to provide input into the assessment of alternatives.”

After the comment period ends, Talbot said, the highway administration and DOT will review and address substantive comments received regarding the environmental assessment.

Public comments will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. April 11 by visiting