The 1922 Memorial Bridge served as an invaluable and important crossing over the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine. This bridge provided a multi-modal transportation system that enhanced trade and commerce, tourism, community life, and the historic and aesthetic character of both communities. The new Memorial Bridge, currently under construction, will continue to serve these important roles.
How did we get here? The 1922 Memorial Bridge was included on NH’s list of deteriorated bridges, known as the Red List of Bridges, as early as 1994. The listing occurred due to the poor condition of the bridge’s steel truss elements. Then, it was elevated to the #1 position on the Red List due to its overall deteriorated condition and lack of weight bearing capacity. Based upon this very poor condition, the bridge closed to vehicle traffic in July 2011. It closed to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in early January 2012, just prior to beginning of the demolition process.
What happens when a bridge is on the Red List? Once a bridge is on the Red List, the NHDOT and in this case the MaineDOT as well, evaluates whether or not it should be rehabilitated or completely replaced. For the Memorial Bridge, this evaluation occurred in 2003 and also included the evaluation of two other adjacent/attached structures known as the Scott Avenue Bridge (located on the Portsmouth side of the river) and the Kittery Approach Spans (located on the Kittery side of the river).
This 2003 evaluation resulted in these conclusions: the Scott Avenue Bridge should be replaced; and the Memorial Bridge and Kittery Approach Spans should be rehabilitated.
At that time, construction plans for these actions were developed and the project was advertised to bidders in 2008. However, based upon the bid process, the cost of these projects was significantly higher than initially anticipated. Then, both DOTs reconsidered this plan and embarked on a comprehensive study of the transportation network connecting Portsmouth and Kittery.
This study, beginning in 2009, was known as The Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study. The goal was to evaluate all three crossings of the Piscataqua River and determine if all three were necessary. These crossing included: Interstate-95 High Level Bridge; Route 1 Memorial Bridge; and, Route 1 Bypass (also known as the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge).
Extensive community outreach and citizen involvement was conducted. At the conclusion of this study, it was recommended that all three bridges remain for the long-term transportation needs of the region. Additionally, it was recommended that the Memorial Bridge should be completely replaced (not rehabilitated). The recommendation to replace the Memorial Bridge was based upon the most recent inspection reports of the bridge which indicated the corrosion and deterioration had advanced to the point of making rehabilitation a non-viable option.
Once it was determined that a new Memorial Bridge would be designed and constructed, the two states decided to use the design-build (DB) type of procurement process to accelerate the overall schedule to complete the replacement project. DB is a project delivery system used to reduce the project schedule by overlapping the design phase and construction phase. The new bridge needed to be in-place as soon as possible and the DOTs knew this.
In November 2011, the project was awarded to Archer Western Contractors. They received the highest score at the completion of the best value award determination process with a schedule approximately five months shorter than the other teams. Archer Western started working on the replacement project in December 2011 and plan for the new bridge to be open in the summer of 2013.