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August 06. 2013 9:40PM

Memorial Bridge ceremony is Thursday in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH — There is still the possibility for a soft opening for the Memorial Bridge ahead of an official ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Thursday morning.

As of Tuesday, New Hampshire Department of Transportation officials were still unsure when they would take control of the bridge.

Final acceptance testing resumed over the weekend, following the repair of a safety gate system that had failed the weekend before.

As of Tuesday, NH DOT officials were going through a final list to make sure everything has been done according to the construction contract, and that all of the individual components of the new lift bridge are working together as a system.

NH DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said he is confident the bridge will be open by or on Thursday, although some work will continue in the coming months that could require lane and full bridge closures.

Boynton said NH DOT will be accepting a safe, operable bridge that can be opened to traffic, but a number of adjustments will need to be made over the next few months.

Rope tension adjustments, motor clutch adjustments, counterweight chain adjustments and other system adjustments will be needed.

A pier protection fender system will also be installed as a buffer against passing ships.

Historic plaques will also need to be installed. Boynton said a community group is planning a ceremony on Veteran’s Day to highlight the reinstallation of the plaques and their connection to the state’s military history.

Light fixtures for the bridge illumination project also need to be installed. Money for that project was also raised by a community-based group through private donations.

United States Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, Kelly Ayotte, R-NH and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are scheduled to speak during the opening ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m. on the Portsmouth side of the bridge. U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan will also speak.

The highlight of the ceremony will be the ribbon-cutting by former Portsmouth Mayor Eileen Foley, who cut the ribbon for the opening of the old Memorial Bridge as a 5-year-old girl on Aug. 17, 1923.

The official ceremony will be preceded by a procession across the Memorial Bridge starting at 10:40 a.m. from the Maine side on Badger’s Island.

“We are looking forward to an exciting day. This has certainly captured the attention of the entire Seacoast region,” Boynton said.

When the bridge is opened will determine how vehicular traffic is handled. If it opens today, the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday. If it does not open today, the bridge will be opened to vehicular traffic some time to be determined much later in the day on Thursday, Boynton said.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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