PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (NEWS CENTER) -- After years spent waiting for a new, modern bridge to connect their communities, people on both sides of the Piscatiqua River are anxiously watching as the replacement for theMemorial Bridge is built.

Construction crews are busy building new approach ramps to the bridge in Kittery and in Portsmouth, while others work on barges in the middle of the river to build new footings for the bridge using components of the old bridge's supports.

Up river at the Port of New Hampshire, teams of contractors are welding together sections of steel that will become the first of three, 300 foot long spans that will make up the body of the bridge.

"When they start seeing this thing come together and the first piece float in, the excitement is going to be high," said Keith Cota, the project manager for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. "It really provides that cohesion between the two communities, and a result of that cohesion, I've been finding that the community is 100% behind this project."

The bridge was designed to be constructed quickly, and utilizes some new techniques and technology that engineers believe will save them money down the road on maintenance and painting.

"The life expectancy on the metalizing is far greater than on a painted system," explained Steve DelGrosso, the senior project manager for lead contractor Archer Western. "Where paint as it fails will peel, the metalizing will really just fade similar to what you would see in any type of a galvanized railing system, and the life expectancy on this should be at least double what a painting system is."

DelGrosso says the bridge willalso have about half the number of plates and bolts holding it together because of the way the steel sections have been fabricated. The pieces are trucked to the site and assembled on a barge which will then float the 600 ton sections into place.

He says they have had a few unexpected challenges to overcome during the first phases of construction, but says they are still planning to float the first bridge section into place in january, with an ultimate goal of having the bridge open to traffic in early July.

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