This week, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) announced that all commercial vehicles are banned from using an aging bridge due to safety concerns — and because too many trucks violated the existing weight limit.

On November 23, 2021, MaineDOT announced that all commercial vehicles are now prohibited from using the Frank J. Wood Bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham via Route 201.

MaineDOT originally introduced a 20,000 pound weight limit on the bridge in late October 2021, but expanded the restriction due to concern over the structural condition of the bridge.

“This new posting means any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 pounds is prohibited from using the bridge. In general, this posting applies to all large trucks, buses, and vehicles with more than two axles. All vehicles that weigh more than 20,000 pounds (the previous posting) are still prohibited from using the bridge. Overweight vehicles should use the Route 1 Bypass as a detour route,” MaineDOT officials said.

Prior to the commercial vehicle ban, officers would have to weigh vehicles on site to determine if they exceeded weight limits.

Cameras and license-plate readers have been installed on the bridge to help enforce the commercial vehicle ban.

MaineDOT says that about 30 trucks still try to use the bridge each day.

“Too many vehicles were not complying with the ten-ton limit,” said MaineDOT Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor. “Restricting the bridge to all commercial traffic will make enforcement efforts easier. We need to take these steps to extend the life of the current structure until we can replace it.”

The Frank J. Wood Bridge was built in 1931 and is currently rated in poor condition. During the last inspection, conducted in mid-September, bridge engineers found severe section loss on the structure, MaineDOT said.

MaineDOT plans to replace the bridge but says that increases in the cost of steel, raw materials, and labor are dramatically increasing the cost of the construction project.

“We understand and respect the passion of the relatively small group that wants to keep the existing 90-year old bridge, but the reality is this bridge is in poor condition and getting worse,” said Taylor. “The extended debate and legal challenges have cost all Maine people many years and many millions of dollars. Given the condition of the existing bridge, the reliability and cost-effectiveness of the new bridge, the planned enhancement of pedestrian and bicycle amenities, and the support of local officials, the time has come to move forward as soon as possible.”

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