PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — The float-in and installation of the draw portion of the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge has been delayed until mid-October and will come at a cost to general contractor, the Cianbro Corp.
Maine Department of Transportation senior engineer Ron Taylor said due to tidal patterns the next available window to install the lift would be starting on Oct. 3 but added on the current schedule, it would “unlikely” be ready for the third. He said the next available date for installation to begin would be Oct. 17 and would close Portsmouth Harbor for tidal navigation for more than a week.
“We don’t think this will delay our schedule,” Taylor said. “Right now, our goal is to have the bridge open for vehicular traffic on Nov. 10.”
The 2,000-ton lift was originally slated to be floated into place Sept. 21 and all water navigation in the harbor would be shut down during the installation, which was expected by Sept. 29, according to Taylor. The original Long Bridge opened in 1940, connecting Portsmouth to Kittery via the Route 1 Bypass and was closed permanently in August 2016 following the center-lift malfunctioning. Construction on the new bridge began in 2015 and is expected to cost more than $170 million.
The delay in the new bridge opening for vehicular traffic will carry a $1,000 penalty for Maine-based Cianbro for every day the bridge remains unopened beyond the original Sept. 1 opening date, according to Taylor. He said there are also per-day penalties on Cianbro for every day past the June 1, 2018, deadline of having the entire project complete, which entails removing the construction trestle adjacent the bridge, installing railroad tracks and landscaping on both sides of the bridge. Taylor said he expects the entire project to be finished before summer 2018.
“We have no reason to expect the project won’t be complete by our deadline next year,” he said.
Taylor said the Kittery side’s sheave walls, which hold up the central lift, will be installed by the end of next week. Though he said if the weather holds there is an outside chance both could be installed this week.
“In the here and now it looks like we’ll have them both up by the end of next week depending on rain and wind and if it coincides with high tide,” Taylor said.
Taylor said all of the road and rail segments are installed on the Portsmouth side of the bridge. He said construction on the two remaining spans on the Kittery side is, “ongoing” and will connect the cantilevered span 12 with spans 10 and 14 to complete the bridge, less the lift.
“We’ll still need to prep, membrane and pave the road and we’ll need to ballast and lay track for the railroad portion, so there will be more ongoing work while the lift is being installed through the end of construction,” Taylor said. “I assume [Cianbro] will begin to remove the trestle during the winter but that is dependent on how harsh the weather gets.”
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