Sarah Mildred Long Bridge opens after 7-month delay
By JASON SCHREIBER
Sunday News Correspondent
March 31. 2018 6:08PM
The new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge opened Friday afternoon. (Jason Schreiber/Sunday News Correspondent)
- After years of work and bumps along the way, the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge linking Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, opened Friday.
Traffic began crossing over the Piscataqua River about 3 p.m.
The opening came seven months later than expected. Project officials didn't discuss the reasons for the delay Friday, instead focussing on celebrating the bridge opening.
The span, expected to cost about $159 million, replaced the structure built in 1940 that closed in August 2016.
The new bridge was a joint project of the Maine and New Hampshire departments of transportation and is part of the "Three Bridge Agreement," addressing jointly owned bridges across the Piscataqua.
"It's been a long time coming. It's great to see this day," said Jeff Folsom, project manager from Maine DOT.
The bridge was built as a precast segmental concrete structure with a deck that lifts for ships and lowers for rail. Its features include four 200-foot-tall precast concrete towers that support the 300-foot streamlined structural steel box girder lift span weighing 2,000 tons.
It also has a larger 56-foot vertical clearance in its resting position, which officials said will mean 68 percent fewer bridge openings.
The bridge also has rail to serve the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. That part of the project was funded by a $25 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.
Drivers once again have a third option to cross the river, which officials said should ease traffic on the Interstate 95 and the Memorial bridges.
Bill Cass, assistant commissioner for the NH DOT, said, "We're excited to have all three bridges fully operational, and I think the communities on both sides are excited to have full access back again," he said.
Cass said the bridge saw about 12,000 vehicles a day before it went out of service. He expects the new bridge will see 13,000 to 14,000 vehicles.
Folsom said the bridge should serve for the next 100 years.
Folsom said the river's swift current posed some construction challenges and acknowledged the delay in opening the bridge.
"It's late. That's clear. We're really not at the point to really discuss that. There will come a time when the project is done and we'll sit down and examine that all. It's not any one thing," he said.
Maine-based Cianbro was the contractor for the project, which began in 2015.
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