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April 17. 2013 9:55PM

Sarah Long Bridge repair will take longer than expected


The MV Harbour Feature sits up against the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge after striking the bridge earlier Monday afternoon. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH -It appears the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic longer than initially anticipated.

Bill Boynton, spokesman with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said Wednesday they are confident the bridge can be repaired and reopened by May 25, hopefully sooner.

"That is longer than previously estimated due to a number of factors, including the need to build in-water support staging, and the decision to perform heat straightening work on the bent lower chord," Boynton said.

The "middle" bridge connecting Portsmouth with Kittery, Maine via the Route 1 Bypass was badly damaged on April 1 when a 473-foot long tanker came loose from the state pier and collided with the bridge.

The NH DOT has estimated the damage at $2.5 million and expects to be reimbursed by the company responsible for the tanker.

Repair work has been ongoing since the collision.

A barge, crane and materials will be floated into the site today and the in-water work will also begin soon to build a temporary support to allow for repair work.

The "heat-straightening" of the lower chord of the bridge will be used in addition to damaged steel replacement.

Lead paint removal also continues at effected locations in need of repair.

Engineering design and steel fabrication work is ongoing by Cianbro of Pittsfield, Maine and Sunday work will begin this weekend.

NH DOT bridge maintenance crews have been performing bridge deck repairs.

"Safety, time and cost are being evaluated with every scheduling decision," Boynton said.

Currently, the I-95 high rise bridge is the only functioning bridge connecting Maine and New Hampshire through Portsmouth. The new Memorial Bridge is under construction and expected to be open in July.

Replacement of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is expected to begin in 2014.

gmacalaster@newstote.com





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