PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — An aging bridge that connects Portsmouth, N.H, and Kittery, Maine, abruptly closed on Wednesday, and transportation officials said there are no plans to try to reopen the span that carries U.S. 1 traffic across the Piscataqua River.
A two-day inspection that started Tuesday revealed numerous structural problems with the 88-year-old Memorial Bridge and the problems appeared to be accelerating, so it was closed nearly a year ahead of schedule.
“There are just too many problems in too many places,” said Bill Boynton, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
It wasn’t the first time motorists have been stopped in their tracks by a shutdown of Memorial Bridge. Last year, the same thing happened but the bridge reopened after repairs. This time, the deterioration is too great to allow traffic to resume, officials said.
The bridge will be open only to pedestrians and bicyclists until it’s torn down altogether to make way for a new bridge due to open in June 2014.
Until the new bridge is built, vehicles will continue using two other bridges, the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge and the Interstate 95 bridge.
Officials had hoped to keep the Memorial Bridge open until July 1, 2012. The silver lining of the bridge’s early closing is that its premature removal may allow the new bridge to be completed six months sooner than expected, Boynton said.