PORTSMOUTH, NH (NEWS CENTER) - People in Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, hope they have something to celebrate next week - they hope to have their bridge back.
The new Memorial Bridge is scheduled to open next week, restoring a critical link between the two Piscatiqua River communities.
The Memorial Bridge is one of three connecting Kittery and Portsmouth. But people in both communities tell us the old bridge was the really local bridge, the one from the heart of downtown Portsmouth into Kittery.
The old bridge was nearly 90 years old, and in 2011 it was finally declared too dangerous to use. New Hampsahire and Maine worked with the federal government to secure special funding to replace the old bridge. Now, the new, $81 million, 1,000-foot long bridge is almost ready, and in a remarkably fast time, considering the size. The NHDOT says the contract for the project was signed in December 2011. Since that time the contractors have had to demolish the old bridge, complete design work and build the new one.
Today, the DOT and contractors started several days of final testing to make sure all the bridge systems work properly. Project Manager Denis Switzer told NEWS CENTER the bridge is a complex mechanism, especially the massive center lift section which weighs more than 2 million pounds, and lifts high above the river to open a path for ship traffic. Initial testing last Sunday, says Switzer, turned up some problems with the gate system. Those have been repaired and other testing goes on.
Assuming there are no major problems, the NHDOT is planning a celebration for Thursday, Aug. 8 at 11:00 AM to formally dedicate the new bridge. Switzer says that will not complete all the work, however. He says more needs to be done on some of the approaches to the bridge,the fender system for ships and other aspects of the project. That work could take several more months.