Sarah Mildred Long Bridge to stay closed through weekend | News

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Sarah Mildred Long Bridge to stay closed through weekend
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PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (NEWS CENTER) -- NH DOT officials say the Sarah Long Bridge will be shut down for the weekend. They say they found more damage than expected.

Engineers spent Tursday and Friday battling frigid temperatures and difficult conditions trying to repair damage done to the lift span of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which carries the Route One bypass over the Piscataqua River.

The roughly 70 year old drawbridge was being opened on Wednesday when the lift span jumped off its guides and ground to a halt.  It has been closed to traffic since.

"It is not an easy job even in good weather, because you are working in a tight space with some fairly large structural steel members," explained Steve Johnson, an assistant administrator with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.  "The weather obviously doesn't make it any easier down there, especially the wind."

Johnson says when the bridge came off its guides, structural steel supporting the guides was bent.  He says they are working to fabricate strengthening pieces to put in place once they realign the bridge so it doesn't happen again.

The traffic headache created by the bridge's closure has been compounded by the fact that the Memorial Bridge, which connects downtown Portsmouth with Kittery, has been closed since last year while it is replaced, leaving only the I-95 bridge to carry traffic between Maine and New Hampshire. 

"I understand that there are significant problems with traffic in general down here with only two bridges open," said Johnson.  "Obviously having two bridges closed really exacerbates the problem."

Johnson says they hope to have the bridge repaired and reopened on Friday.

Design work is being done on a replacement for the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, with work scheduled to start soon after the new Memorial Bridge opens this summer.

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