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New Sarah Mildred Long Bridge won't open until November

Union Leader Correspondent

August 16. 2017 9:13PM
Construction of the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is behind schedule, but a substantial amount of work has already been completed. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — Vehicles will not be able to cross the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine, until November.

Originally scheduled to open to traffic next month, that date has been pushed back to Nov. 1 through Nov. 15 for a number of reasons, according to Ted Talbot, press secretary for the Maine Department of Transportation.

“There isn’t one thing we can point to,” Talbot said Wednesday. “This is such a large project, and there are always things. Rarely do you hit the date the contract states.”

Talbot said weather this winter and spring made the project more difficult for workers.

“Rain and snow are not your friends when you are bridge building,” Talbot said.

Resident engineer Ron Taylor said the vehicular bridge on the Portsmouth side is almost complete from the abutment to the Portsmouth side lift tower and the railroad bridge is complete on the Portsmouth side. On the Kittery side the vehicular bridge is underway.

“We’ve got one span almost completed and the railroad bridge is complete, but there is still substantial work remaining on the Kittery side as it relates to the vehicular bridge,” Taylor said.

Taylor said that means the railroad portion of the bridge is finished at this time.

Taylor said crews are trying to work around the clock to get the bridge finished, but one setback triggers a series of events.

“It’s extremely complicated, and if you don’t complete one task in a series of tasks for a span, that pushes you back a little bit on the next span,” Taylor said. “If you have rain that delays segments or grouting. Most of the setting of segments are weather dependent.”

Taylor said they plan to install the bridge’s lift next month, and the U.S. Coast Guard will shut down the Piscataqua River to navigational traffic from Sept. 20 to 29. The lift will be floated in at 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 21 if all goes as planned.

The new lift span will have 56 feet of clearance above the river in the highway position, which means it should have to open less frequently than the old bridge to accommodate smaller vessels.

To watch construction of the new bridge, visit

Public Safety Transportation Portsmouth

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