PORTSMOUTH — A full structural inspection of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge will begin Monday, Oct. 28, forcing single-lane closures for up to 11 work days.
Lane closures will take place as needed and as weather permits from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays, according to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
The inspection is a requirement of the Federal Highway Administration. The last full inspection to take place on the Sarah Long Bridge was in 2009, but interim inspections are done every six months on critical parts of the bridge, Bob Landry of the DOT’s Bridge Design Bureau said.
“It’s different than the ones we have been doing but a standard effort that we do,” Landry said. “It’s just this bridge takes a lot longer to do compared to our other standard bridges.”
The bridge is 2,800 feet long, has a railroad track running underneath the roadway and is a truss structure.
The Sarah Long bridge opened in 1940. It is the state’s No. 1 “red list” bridge, meaning it is the bridge most in need of repair.
A $160 million replacement project is scheduled to begin next fall. Maine and New Hampshire share responsibility for the bridge, and will share the costs of replacing it. The two states recently applied for a $25 million TIGER grant to cover the cost of replacing the railroad span, which is used exclusively by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, but were unsuccessful.
“Both states are committed to finding the funds necessary to move forward,” Landry said.Despite the bridge’s many deficiencies, Landry said he thinks the inspection will go well, based on the interim inspections conducted. “But you never know,” he said. “We want to get through it and make sure there is nothing that sneaks up on us.”