Memorial Bridge Losing Weight

After years of hanging together with the civil engineering equivalent of duct tape and hope, Memorial Bridge, connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, is finally closed for good.  At least as far as drivers are concerned, anyway.  The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has been keeping its fingers crossed, hoping the 88-year old bridge would hold up under the weight of vehicle traffic for just one more year.  But the results of a recent safety inspection put the kybosh to that idea.  In a story for Foster’s Daily Democrat, Scott Kinney gives a rundown of the wear-and-tear:

“Among the inadequacies of the failing bridge are 10 gusset plates DOT lead inspector Dave Powelson described as “in critical need” and another 10 that were of concern. Gusset plates are thick sheets of steel used to connect beams and girders to columns or to connect truss members and are integral to bridge’s ability to bear weight.”

Memorial Bridge is one of three main routes running between Kittery and Portsmouth.  The two economies are heavily integrated, especially with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard located in Kittery.  And Memorial Bridge is popular mainly for the easy access it provides to the outlet stores in Kittery.  Pedestrians and bicyclists will still be able to cross the bridge–presumably without engaging in the nervous weight-limit calculus of passengers squished into an overcrowded elevator.  In the meantime, Kinney reports construction on a new bridge could be moved up to late November, rather than next July as planned.  In the meantime, he quotes Portsmouth Mayor Tom Ferrini on possible the possible economic effects of the closure,

“This afternoon’s news about the status of the bridge made protecting the jobs it creates no less vital, but made the need for its replacement far more urgent…We cannot risk any future delays hindering the replacement of the Memorial Bridge and jeopardizing local jobs.”

cmh2315fl / Flickr

After 88 years, the rickety old Memorial Bridge is set for demolition--sooner rather than later.


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