May 25, 2018
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Brunswick and Topsham choose not to pay to fix damaged bridge

By Alex Lear, The Forecaster

TOPSHAM, Maine — With neither Topsham nor Brunswick willing to pay $750,000 for repairs, the highway portion of the Black Bridge is expected to be removed next year.

The Topsham Board of Selectmen voted unanimously July 18 not to fund the repairs, echoing a previous vote by the Brunswick Town Council.

Deputy Commissioner Bruce Van Note of the Maine Department of Transportation said in a June 4 letter to the managers of both towns that the department plans to spend $250,000 to remove the bridge’s motor vehicle tier, which sits below a railroad tier.

The towns had the option of funding the $750,000 difference between the cost of removal and the approximately $1 million cost to replace the motor vehicle level.

“We know this decision impacts your communities, and we apologize for the negative aspects of the removal,” Van Note said, “but we continue to believe this is a necessary decision in light of public safety and the unmet needs of the statewide transportation system.”

Donald Russell, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday that this would have been a new expense for Topsham because the town has never been responsible for maintaining its half of the Androscoggin River bridge, which was under the stewardship of a railroad company.

“Anything that’s been around for a long while, you kind of hate to see it go, but there are certain times you have to accept reality,” Russell said.

He noted that there are some residents of the Topsham Heights neighborhood near the bridge who would like the bridge to remain intact, and others who do not mind the highway section’s removal, since its two-year closure has resulted in less noise on Bridge Street.

The motor vehicle tier of the 318-foot bridge has been closed since April 2011, when a vehicle crashed into the structure’s pressure-treated guard rail and steel suspension rods.

Until its closure the narrow, 104-year-old bridge had allowed alternating one-way traffic, from Bridge Street in Topsham to Mill Street in Brunswick.

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