Sarah Mildred Long Bridge work taking longer than expected
By KIMBERLEY HAAS Union Leader Correspondent
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is still closed to traffic as construction crews work to ensure the structure is safe and reliable. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)
PORTSMOUTH — The new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, will not open to vehicular traffic until later this year.
Planners were hoping to have the bridge open by mid- to late-November. That was pushed back to Dec. 1, and now on the Maine Department of Transportation website, officials say that depending on weather and other factors, the bridge is expected to open to drivers sometime in the winter of 2018.
Maine DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said Thursday that recent poor weather conditions haven’t helped as crews work to open the lift span bridge, but there is no one thing that has caused a delay.
“It’s that this is a complicated and sophisticated bridge that is being built. Anytime you construct a moveable structure, there are systems that have to be synched, parts that need to line up perfectly and structural issues that occasionally come up. In other words, this is not a Lego bridge… it’s extremely complicated. (No offense to Lego fans!)” Talbot said via email.
At about $158.5 million, Talbot said this is the most expensive bridge the state of Maine has ever built. It is also the largest. Safety and efficiency are top priorities for officials.
“We are committed to making sure the bridge operates as perfectly as it can. We’re not rushing the project in any manner,” Talbot said.
The original Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, also known as the “middle bridge” connecting Portsmouth and Maine via U.S. Route 1 Bypass, was built in 1940. In August of 2016, the center span became stuck in the up position, and officials decided to close it early because the bridge was expected to shut down to traffic permanently in November of that year.
At the time, the new bridge was projected to open for vehicles in September of 2017.
Approximately 14,000 vehicles crossed the old Sarah Mildred Long Bridge every day. Since it closed, drivers have relied on the Interstate 95 bridge and the Memorial Bridge.
According to maine.gov, the new bridge will be completely finished by this summer.