A group fighting to save the 89-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge between Brunswick and Topsham has filed a notice of appeal in court, calling for the reversal of a federal judge’s ruling last month backing the Maine Department of Transportation’s plans to replace the bridge.

The truss bridge carries Route 201 and Route 24 traffic over the Androscoggin River.

The notice was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Maine by the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation. The plaintiffs are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit based in Boston.

The case was still being transferred from the federal district court in Maine over to the federal First Circuit appeals court as of Tuesday, a court clerk said.

Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Bridge Foundation sued in September 2019, alleging the Federal Highway Administration and Maine Department of Transportation relied on inaccurate information to artificially inflate the projected costs of rehabilitating the existing bridge.

MeDOT maintains that building a new bridge would be more cost-effective than upgrading the structure.

Former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note were named among the defendants named in the initial suit.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker’s ruling was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland on Feb. 3. In his decision, Walker states that while there may be “exaggeration” in a couple of cost estimates, Walker doesn’t believe it changes the overall finding that a new bridge is less expensive to maintain in the long run.

John Graham, a spokesman for the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, said on Feb. 5 the group planned to appeal the decision.

“We appreciate Judge Walker’s numerous statements acknowledging that MDOT had exaggerated the costs of rehabilitating the bridge and understated the cost of building a new bridge, but disagree with his overall conclusion,” Graham said in a statement at the time.

Right now, the group is at the first step in filing the legal paperwork to begin its appeal, Graham said Tuesday.

“It’s following through with the fact that we are filing an appeal and we believe strongly that we are still in the right and as MDOT’s price keeps ballooning, that it just proves our initial skepticism,” Graham said.

Currently, the total estimated bridge replacement cost is $21.8 million for engineering and construction, according to Paul Merrill, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation. In 2020, $19.8 million was budgeted for the bridge replacement.

Merrill said in July 2020 there are many factors that have driven up the cost of the project, included an extended review process. The project was initially slated to start in 2019.

The department still plans to advertise for bids in July so construction could begin late this fall, Merrill said in a Feb. 8 statement. However, “future legal action could lead to continued delays and continued price increases.”

Merrill declined to comment further Tuesday on how the appeal may impact the project.

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