Maine DOT fights rumors that new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is unsafe or defective
By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
February 09. 2018 5:08PM
(KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is operational and safe, according to officials with the Maine Department of Transportation.
PORTSMOUTH – Officials with the Maine Department of Transportation are trying to dispel rumors concerning the much delayed Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine.
Speculation that the bridge is unsafe or has mechanical issues is mistaken, said Maine DOT spokesman Ted Talbot in a statement Friday morning.
“The fact is the bridge is operational and safe,” he said.
The bridge was commissioned in late January, meaning it was successfully lifted and operated under a variety of simulated scenarios, Talbot said. That allowed the Maine and New Hampshire Departments of Transportation to assume ownership and operational responsibilities.
“Training of the New Hampshire DOT employees responsible for operating the bridge has been successfully completed. They are currently waiting to take over these operational duties,” Talbot said.
Much of the remaining work is either aesthetic or weather-dependent, such as weatherproofing, painting and patching concrete, he said.
“Maine and New Hampshire are now evaluating all options for opening the bridge sooner than what was indicated on Cianbro’s most recent schedule,” Talbot said.
On Monday, Maine DOT posted on its website that it shares the public’s frustration with Cianbro’s schedule. Prior to that, Maine DOT had said delays on the $158.5 million span bridge were not caused by any one thing.
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge was originally scheduled to open on Sept. 1. The most recent schedule projects an opening date of May 10 for vehicle traffic and May 17 for rail traffic.
The original Sarah Mildred Long Bridge was built in 1940 to connect New Hampshire and Maine via U.S. Route 1 Bypass. It became known locally as “the middle bridge” for its location between the Interstate 95 Bridge to the west and the Memorial Bridge to the east.
Sarah Mildred Long Bridge closed months earlier than planned in 2016 when the center span became stuck in the up position in August.
About 14,000 vehicles crossed the old Sarah Mildred Long Bridge daily. Since it closed, drivers have relied on the Interstate 95 bridge and Memorial Bridge.