February 21, 2019
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Maine-N.H. bridge repair estimate in works after ‘big hit’ from tanker

Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
The MV Harbour Feature has hit the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, and the bridge will be closed two to four weeks, officials said.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — There is no final estimate in yet for the repair work necessary to reopen the 73-year-old Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which spans the Piscataqua River and connects Kittery to Portsmouth.

Some inspection and engineering analysis of the bridge, which was hit by an adrift, 473-foot, Portuguese-flagged tanker Monday afternoon, is still ongoing.

“The bridge took a big hit,” said Bill Boynton, New Hampshire Department of Transportation public information officer. “We aren’t really at a point yet where we can give a solid estimate because they’re evaluating various scenarios comparing repair versus replacement, and we did some underwater diver inspections and one pier — the south tower pier — had some damage.

“They’re still analyzing it to see if there’s any damage [on the pier] that needs to be repaired, or if it’s just superficial.”

Boynton said it has been determined that two of the bridge’s truss elements must be replaced. Others are being analyzed to see if they can be repaired, or need to be replaced. The time frame for repair will be at least four weeks.

“We’re working with the Maine DOT and a private contractor who’s helping us evaluate damage,” Boynton said. “They [contractor] will be doing the work, but since they haven’t been signed on officially, we can’t say who they are, but major bridge work is one of their areas of expertise.”

As far as the age of the Route 1 bypass bridge, Boynton said it is nearing the end of its projected life span and scheduled to be replaced by the end of 2017.

“Maine has been taking the lead on that, but it’s a $170 million replacement project and cost is a huge factor, especially with federal, state and local funds being short,” he said.

The tanker, the Harbour Feature, was loaded with yellow grease and tallow oil at the New Hampshire State Pier before it got loose. Boynton said Maine and New Hampshire would take action to get reimbursed for the cost of repair from whoever is responsible for the ship breaking away from its moorings and hitting the bridge broadside.

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