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Portsmouth bridge remains closed to traffic

By Gretyl Macalaster
Union Leader Correspondent

January 25. 2013 3:51PM
Crews continue to work through frigid temperatures on Friday to repair steel damage done to the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth with Kittery, Maine when the lift span went askew on Wednesday. The bridge is not expected to be open to vehicular traffic until Monday. (NH DOT)

PORTSMOUTH - The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting New Hampshire with Maine via the Route 1 Bypass remained closed on Friday, two days after an electrical malfunction caused the lift span to become stuck about a foot above the roadway.

Crews continued to make good progress on structural damage done to the bridge when the lift span went askew during a lift on Wednesday as temperatures warmed slightly.

New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton said the center span had been seated back at road level inside the vertical guides in which it rides up and down by Friday afternoon but crews continued to work on structural steel repairs.

He said NH DOT crews hope to have the structural steel work completed by late Saturday.

"Under the best case scenario we would hope to do a test lift late tomorrow," Boynton said on Friday afternoon. "The priority right now is to be able to get the bridge lifted so it would free it up for river traffic."

Boynton said they are very much aware that there are boats waiting to get up river.

"We understand the urgency of it and are working very hard to get the bridge operating again," Boynton said.

They are attributing Wednesday's incident to an electrical malfunction which apparently contributed to the motors that work the lift mechanism not working in tandem and causing the lift span to go out of line.

"So once the physical damage is repaired, there are still going to be a series of tests to make sure it doesn't get stuck again for whatever reason," Boynton said.

He is hopeful the bridge will be open to vehicular traffic by Monday.

Constructed in 1940, the Sarah Mildred Long bridge is New Hampshire's number one "red list" bridge, meaning it is the bridge most in need of repair in the state.

Maine is leading the charge on a plan to replace the bridge, a project estimated to cost about $170 million. The bridge includes a rail line that serves the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The bridge is co-owned by the states of New Hampshire and Maine along with the Memorial Bridge, currently under construction, and the I-95 high rise bridge.

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