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January 04. 2014 10:02PM

Extreme cold may be to blame for Memorial Bridge closing in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH - Extreme cold on Thursday night might have contributed to a problem with the new Memorial Bridge, forcing it to close to traffic for about an hour.

New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton said the bridge did not seat properly after being lowered following a lift around 9 p.m., forcing workers to close the bridge for about an hour until the problem was worked out.

Three test lifts were conducted Friday morning without any problems.

Boynton said the bridge is still a construction site, and some tweaking associated with cold weather has been done, including changing the type of grease used to try and allow for better lift operation in cold temperatures.

Boynton said it is still unclear whether Thursday night's below-freezing temperatures contributed to the lift problem.

"I don't think we are at this point connecting any of the issues directly to the weather other than it was definitely cold last night, and it is going to be very cold tonight," Boynton said Friday afternoon. "It is certainly facing cold weather tests in terms of the kind of conditions we are operating under. Not unlike a brand-new car that sits out in the cold, it (the lift bridge) needs to be warmed up in order to operate properly."

Boynton said various types of issues have cropped up that have affected some lifts, and each one is being addressed separately as it comes up.

Operational work also continues on the bridge. Next week, the external warning gate system will be replaced after a series of problems that initially started before the new bridge connecting Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth via Route 1 opened in August.

Boynton said there appears to be some communication problems between the span locks that lock the lift span in place when lowered fully, and the warning gates, which will not go up unless they get a message that the spans are locked.

Boynton said they continue to work with the bridge's main contractor, Archer Western, and subcontractors to make sure everything is working effectively.

gmacalaster@newstote.com.


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