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June 02. 2013 9:58PM

Memorial Bridge illumination project reaches its goal in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH — A $50,000 donation by the main contractor on the Memorial Bridge construction project has brought the bridge illumination committee to its final fundraising goal of $200,000.

The $50,000 donation by Archer Western Contractors will allow the center span of the bridge to be lit with color-changing LED lights when it is lifted and lowered.

The initial $150,000 goal was reached earlier in May for phase one of the project, which includes using white energy-saving LED lights to illuminate the memorial plaque and color-changing LED lights to light the pier footings and towers.

The private fundraising effort began in November and garnered almost immediate support from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth will share ongoing maintenance costs for the lights after the first five years of operation at a cost estimated to be under $1,000 annually.

In total, more than 95 individuals and 30 businesses and organizations donated to the private effort.

Illumination subcommittee member Tom Decker said he has always been fascinated by the Zakim Bridge in Boston and found that about half of the postcards sold in Fanueil Hall feature the iconic, modern bridge, often illuminated in blue at night.

“I can just imagine what this is going to do for the community. This is the like the (North) church, another icon,” Decker said. “I think it is going to be good for business.”

He said it was also nice to see business, community and government work hand in hand to make the project happen. The city of Portsmouth agreed to set up a trust fund to manage the funds, which were collected through the Portsmouth Historical Society allowing for a tax-deductible donation.

The goal is to install the lights while construction is still ongoing and equipment is in place.

The bridge is scheduled to open in July. The center span of the bridge will be floated in and placed between June 10 and June 15. During that time, the Piscataqua River Channel in that area will be closed to marine traffic.

Decker said he expects the bridge to be fully illuminated by the time the bridge is officially re-dedicated in November.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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