This fall 2021 photo shows where a 336-foot multi-use bridge over the Sandy River in Farmington is to be built. More than $2 million in funding has been secured for its construction. Laura and Adam Casey

FARMINGTON — The High Peaks Alliance was recently awarded $2.041 Million through the federal Fiscal Year 2023 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill to rebuild a multi-use bridge over the Sandy River in Farmington.  The request was supported and championed by Senator Collins, Senator King, and Representative Golden in the 2023 federal budget.

“Rebuilding the Sandy River Bridge to connect the regional Whistle Stop Trail to downtown Farmington has been one of this region’s biggest opportunities,” Brent West, executive director for High Peaks Alliance, an organization protecting Maine’s tradition of public access, wrote in a release Tuesday, Jan. 17. “Farmington is the regional hub and gateway to the High Peaks Region in Franklin County, and our communities have always been linked to our natural resources. The High Peaks Alliance is thankful to Senators Collins and King and Congressman Golden for seeing the importance of this project to Maine.”

On June 30, 2022, Congressman Jared Golden, second from left is seen touring the site of a proposed multi-use bridge across the Sandy River in Farmington. Also seen from left are High Peaks Alliance Executive Director Brent West, Executive Director Greater Franklin Economic and Community Development Charles Woodworth, and Farmington Selectman and Representative Scott Landry. Farmington Town Manager Christian Waller is partially hidden by Landry. Tuesday, Jan. 17, it was announced more than $2 Million in funding has been secured for the project. Jared Golden’s Office

In September 2021, Farmington selectmen approved using $5,000 from the Rail Trail Bridge Reserve Account to go towards a pre-engineering report for rebuilding a bridge in West Farmington.

The railroad bridge that allowed snowmobile travel across the Sandy River was removed several years ago. Since then the town, Androscoggin Valley Council of Government, and the state have looked at ways to replace it. A study in the early 2000s estimated the cost at $1.6 million.

The 336-foot bridge would be cable stayed, similar to a suspension bridge in that it’s free span and wouldn’t need the center pier, West noted in 2021. That would alleviate some of the issues with permitting, going in the Sandy River, he added.

All easements needed on both sides of the river were in place and a meeting with University of Maine at Farmington officials was held to discuss their needs, West said then.


A year ago selectmen unanimously approved appropriating $200,000 in future funds to complete match requirements for a federal grant being sought to rebuild the Rail Trail Bridge. Those funds could come from the Downtown TIF Account or an alternative source of funding, Town Manager Christian Waller said then. The estimate for final engineering, permitting, trail and bridge construction at that time was $2.5 million.

The multi-use bridge will connect the 14-mile long Whistle Stop Trail to the center of Farmington and provide access to northern Franklin County. The Whistle Stop Trail connects Farmington with Jay. The bridge will be owned and managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands as part of the Whistle Stop Trail.

Students at Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington studied the bridge design and developed a 3-D model of the proposed bridge which is made up of seven 48-foot sections. A video of their efforts may be seen at

“The Bureau of Parks and Lands is thrilled to be part of this collaborative effort to rebuild this critical trail connection,” Andy Cutko, bureau director, noted in the release. “We appreciate the leadership of the High Peaks Alliance on this initiative, as well as the funding support from our congressional delegation. We look forward to working with local partners to see this project through to its completion.”

“Since a flood in the 1980s, there have been multiple attempts to rebuild this community resource. Through the collaboration of federal, state, town and private resources, we are finally able to move towards construction of the bridge. The next steps will be to secure any construction clearances and final engineering before bidding out the construction,” West added.

This project has also received funding through generous contributions from Susan and Fritz Onion, The Sandy River Charitable Foundation, The Maine Timberland Trust, Franklin Savings Bank, the Northern Border Regional Commission and the state of Maine’s snowmobile program.


“Fritz and I remember skiing and biking across the old trestle between Farmington and West Farmington in the 1980s. The rebuilding of the Sandy River trestle will be a great asset for the community through improving access and providing safe passage across the river while connecting the Whistle Stop Trail to downtown Farmington and the western foothills and mountains. We are thrilled that community support and funding have come together to help bring this project to fruition after all these years!” Susan Onion noted in the release.

“The bridge will be constructed at the site of the old train trestle that crosses the Sandy River in Farmington,” West wrote later Tuesday in response to questions from The Franklin Journal. “This area is located at UMF’s Prescott Fields and extends across the river to West Farmington where it meets the start of the Whistle Stop Trail.”

West noted it is too early to know project logistics. “We literally just finished the funding so we are grouping up soon with partners and parsing this all out,” he wrote. “The next steps will be working with the State to develop these timelines but we can suspect that we will be looking for final engineering and permitting this spring.”

West is also not sure if local contractors will be able to bid on the project or parts of it since the applicable procurement standards haven’t been determined. “We have to clear all the grant requirements and make a plan to start moving forward now that funding is secured,” he wrote. “We won’t hear from the funding agency for a few weeks. I would suspect most contractors will get subcontracts for fabrication and other services. This information will be available as we will have to advertise it all publicly.”

It is also too early to know when start of construction is anticipated, West noted. Because the bridge project is not located near any roads, traffic will not be impacted, although there will need to be some safety areas near the actual construction site which may temporarily restrict some access near the river, he added.

“We would hope that this bridge can be constructed next year after clearing grant agreements, final engineering, and permitting,” West wrote. “I believe it would be ambitious to try and get it done this year. We will try to move it forward as fast as we can work the process.”

About High Peaks Alliance: The High Peaks Alliance is a volunteer, non-profit organization made up of local hunters, hikers, birders, loggers, fishermen, snowmobile and ATV riders, Maine Guides, x-country skiers, mountain bikers, and others working together since 2007 to ensure continuing public access to Maine’s High Peaks Region for residents as well as visitors. We welcome those who would set aside differences to work together to ensure public access for present and future generations in the High Peaks region. For more information, contact Brent West at [email protected]

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