PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge remained closed after malfunctioning Sunday morning, it won’t be fixed Monday. With a replacement bridge under construction, it’s possible it may never reopen, according to New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boyton.
The 76-year-old bridge, over which 14,000 vehicles pass daily between Portsmouth and Kittery along the Route 1 Bypass, malfunctioned Sunday at about 11 a.m., Boynton said. At that time the bridge’s lift span seized in the closed position which meant vehicles could pass over it, but large boats couldn’t pass under it.
At about 1:15 a.m. Monday, Boynton said, the lift span was raised because federal law mandates that river traffic take precedent over motor vehicles. Since that time, he said, the bridge span has been stuck in the up position, meaning no motor vehicles can pass over it.
Boynton said the cause of the malfunction was attributed to a wheel on a southwest corner tower, on the New Hampshire side, that carries cables for lifting the span. He said experts from Maine and New Hampshire’s transportation departments were consulting, as were experts from the Cianbro construction company, which was in the process of constructing a replacement bridge adjacent to the current bridge.
Boynton said the consultants were studying the seriousness of the problem and whether it can be repaired for a reasonable cost. The bridge was scheduled to be closed permanently in early November, so that was a factor under serious consideration, he said.
“There will be discussion about whether it makes sense to repair,” Boynton said. “The good news is that it is up because there was a large ship waiting to get out.”
Boynton said the bridge will remain closed, with the lift in the upright position, until at least Tuesday. In the meantime, he said, drivers are encouraged to use the Interstate 95 Piscataqua River Bridge, known as the high-level bridge. That span has the capacity to carry more traffic than the Memorial Bridge located near downtown Portsmouth, he said.
The new Sarah Long Bridge was scheduled to open Sept. 1, 2017. The project was scheduled to be fully complete by June 1, 2018.
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