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Long Bridge Replacement in Final Phase

Friday, October 20, 2017

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The final phase of construction of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge began on Wednesday (Oct. 18), with the help of the tide floating the last span into place.

"Today is one of the very last big milestones in being able to get that lift span attached to the bridge," said Joyce Taylor, chief engineer of the Maine Department of Transportation. "The lift span is the center piece of the bridge that will carry the vehicle traffic as well as the rail road."

The bridge, which connects Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, crossing the Piscataqua River, remains on schedule for completion and opening for traffic next month, according to NH1.

Final Span Placement

According to the Portland Press Herald, the 4-million-pound structural steel span was floated on two barges over the river on Tuesday, in order to take advantage of the 9-foot rise of the river’s tide.

At the apex of the tide on Wednesday morning, the span lifted into position and was dropped onto bearings on the bridge’s lower deck as the tide went out later that same afternoon.

The structure, a modular two-level bridge, includes a lower deck for locomotives and an upper deck for automobiles and sits 56 feet above the river.

The placement of this span marks the final phase of this bridge project, which originally started construction in 2015. Originally slated to open in September of 2017 but delayed to November, construction workers are now racing against cold weather to get paving done and make the bridge ready to accept traffic.

“We are kind of dependent on the weather right now,” Taylor said. “We are trying to maneuver around the cold weather we know is coming.”

To accommodate for the construction, the U.S. Coast Guard closed the river a thousand feet around the bridge to all vessels until Oct. 27.  

Bridge Replacement and Design

Closed since August of 2016, the old Sarah Mildred Long Bridge malfunctioned and became stuck in an upright position. At the time of the incident, New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesperson Bill Boyton said that the issue was caused by a faulty wheel on the bridge’s southwest corner tower, which was responsible for carrying cables that lifted the old bridge’s span. As a result, the 76-year-old bridge was closed permanently and demolished last October.

The design of the new bridge includes a four-pulley system on four 200-foot concrete towers, which raise and lower the span to accommodate marine traffic. What makes this design special is its height; since it stands higher over the river than its predecessor, the times the bridge will have to be lifted to accommodate boats will be cut 68 percent (from 3,000 to 1,000 times).

Geno Marconi, Director of Ports and Harbors for the New Hampshire Port Authority, told NH1 that this project was both an improvement for the traffic that commutes back and forth between the two states, but that it was also an improvement on navigation.

"I know it's an improvement for traffic going back and forth between the two states," he said. "But from a navigation standpoint, this is a navigational improvement project because the horizontal opening is larger than the old bridge, and the repositioning of the bridge aligns the opening more with the navigation channel."

Cost and Moving Forward

In total, the bridge replacement is slated to cost $160 million, but both New Hampshire and Maine are shouldering the cost. Both states’ Departments of Transportation are working together, noted the Press Herald.

According to NH1, the new bridge was designed in collaboration between bridge design firms FIGG and Hardesty & Hanover. Cianbro, a Maine-based firm, is in charge of constructing the bridge.

The new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge has a life expectancy of 100 years, thanks to project officials opting for concrete instead of steel when it came to the towers. The choice will help minimize cost of repairs, Taylor noted.

“It’s a beautiful bridge I think, but we weren’t looking for the prettiest bridge in the world,” she added. “We wanted it to stand the test of time.”


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Department of Transportation (DOT); Infrastructure; Project Management

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