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January 02. 2013 11:49PM

Bridge-lighting costs escalate in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH - The price tag for illumination of the Memorial Bridge is rising as the optimum time for installation rapidly approaches.

The Memorial Bridge Illumination Subcommittee originally estimated the cost at about $80,000, based on a quote from privately hired lighting designer John Powell.

Keith Cota, chief project manager with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said the estimate is now around $120,000. Most of the estimated increase comes from a change to down-lighting the two towers of the lift bridge to keep the project in line with the state's Dark Skies Initiative.

The original plan called for up-lighting the towers from the bridge deck. The change adds about $35,000 to the price tag, Cota said.

The cost includes lighting the historic World War I memorial plaque, which will be re-installed on the bridge.

The estimate does not include lighting the center lift span. That would add another $45,000, Cota said.

"That was like a supplemental add-on if the lighting committee can raise the funds ... certainly it would accent the bridge better but certainly it would add a little more cost," Cota said.

Cota said the estimate covers only equipment and installation costs for the lighting subcontractor on the project, E.S. Boulos Company of Portland, Maine. It does not cover supplemental costs associated with support requirements, including a barge and crane for installation.

Cota said there is no "drop-dead date" for installing the lights, but the ideal time would be as the towers are being erected, starting in February or March.

At the outset, Cota said, they should be installed by the time the bridge is scheduled for completion in July. They could be installed after the bridge is done, although the cost would go up even more, he said.

Cota said once the Department of Transportation knows what the local community financial commitment will be for the project, it will work with the city to be sure the funding is in place.

The city agreed to handle a fund and manage giving the money to the DOT.

"We recognize the importance of tower and bridge illumination, but it is not really a functional element of the bridge that we need to maintain and manage, so we don't have the ability to fund any part of it and ... advancing approval before funding is in place is a liability we don't feel it is appropriate to do," Cota said.

As of Christmas, the illumination subcommittee had received pledges in excess of $21,000 toward the project.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at gmacalaster@newstote.com.

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