Tom Warne Report, 14 May 2012
PORTSMOUTH – Maine and New Hampshire have made a significant step toward replacing the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge by 2017 by agreeing to spend $171.7 million on the project. A preliminary study performed by HNTB outlines the cost and proposed work for the new bridge; the current plan calls for building adjacent to the existing span. A traffic bridge would be built a level above a railroad bridge, as is the current bridge.
“We have a broad direction and we’re moving forward,” said Maine Deputy Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note. “Both states believe the Long Bridge project is a very high priority. Now we’re in the problem-solving mode. How do we get there?”
Van Note said the two DOT’s have held “very productive and collaborative meetings,” to work on a compromise as Maine’s legislature has been set on a rehabilitation of the current bridge, while New Hampshire officials have argued that no money will be spent on the bridge unless it is elongated to handle the next generation of cargo vessels to travel to New Hampshire ports upriver.
The study cost estimates are $41.7 million more than originally budgeted for the project and both DOTs agree that finding the funding for the project is the first priority. “Securing the funds is an outstanding issue,” Van Note said. “Both states know it. It’s going to require extraordinary federal funding.” He said actual construction will likely begin in late 2014 at the earliest, which is a year later than originally planned because permits for a new bridge will take longer than for a rehabilitated one.