PORTSMOUTH — The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge could remain closed for another two days as crews from the N.H. Department of Transportation attempt to maneuver the center lift span back down into place.
The drawbridge’s center span became dislodged Wednesday during a “routine lift” at about 1:20 p.m., according to NHDOT spokesman Bill Boynton. The bridge’s tracking mechanism was damaged in the process, leaving the span stuck about a foot above the roadway, Boynton said.
Traffic was being detoured away from the bridge following Wednesday’s mishap. NHDOT’s bridge maintenance personnel assessed the damage and developed a repair plan Wednesday evening, and equipment for the job was being mobilized overnight.
Repairs were scheduled to commence Thursday morning. At a minimum, fixing the bridge will require using torches to cut away damaged sections, Boynton said.
“This is a challenging fix, it looks like at this point, so it’s not completely clear as to when they can fix it,” Boynton said. “But they’re hoping, optimistically, [Thursday].”
Completed in 1940, the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge provides a pivotal connection for motorists traveling between Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine. The steel structure measures 2,800 feet, and carries the Route 1 Bypass over the Piscataqua River. On an average day, an estimated 16,000 vehicles cross over the bridge.
The cause of Wednesday’s mechanical failure has not been determined. Boynton said the bridge’s center span was being lifted as a routine exercise to ensure it was still functioning properly in cold weather.
“It’s a bridge that’s had issues in cold weather before, and it also dates back to the early 1940s,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to get it operational.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services