Memorial Bridge News

Community Effort to Illuminate the Memorial Bridge Launched

The Bridge Illumination Sub-Committee of the Memorial Bridge Project will officially kick off the fundraising efforts to light the new Memorial Bridge at Kittery Town Hall, on Tuesday November 20 at 10am.   The Sub-Committee has been working with the NHDOT and authorities in both Maine and New Hampshire for the past six months in an effort to develop a vision and plan for the illumination of the new Memorial Bridge expected to be completed in July 2013.  The proposed plan calls for the illumination of the footings, the Memorial Plaque honoring veterans and the two towers using energy efficient color-capable LED (light emitting diode) light sources.  The $80,000, raised through donations, is expected to cover the costs of design, installation, operation and utility costs for the first five years.

For further information on this website and to access the fundraising brochure CLICK HERE. 

“We believe that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our communities to have an impact on this bridge which will be enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike.  It is an opportunity to create a unique and attractive connection for our seacoast communities and add to the beauty of the riverfront.  We also believe that the illumination project will give an emotional uplift to our neighbors and businesses and already we have seen growing interest and support,” said Peter Somssich, chairman of the Illumination Sub-Committee and a Portsmouth resident.

The Illumination Sub-Committee was initially started by a handful of individuals including Ben Porter (Kittery), Rose Eppard (Portsmouth), Gail Drobnyik (Kittery) and Peter Somssich (Portsmouth) with additional help from Doug Bates (Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce), and Nancy Carmer (City of Portsmouth). Recently, two new members with professional lighting experience have joined our group, Bruce Morriss (Kittery) and Jon Di Gesu (Stratham) along with Gerry Mylroie (Town of Kittery).

“While many others including NHDOT were initially supportive of our plans, getting started was difficult. Finally, we took the initiative to hire a lighting designer with bridge illumination experience to propose a reasonable but affordable illumination plan. The sub-committee hired John Powell from Boston, at our own expense, so that we could have a proposal in hand to begin the discussions.  John’s projects include the lighting of the bridges spanning the Charles River,” added Somssich.

Denis Switzer, NHDOT Contract Administrator, and Keith Cota, NHDOT Chief Project Manager, have engaged with John Powell regarding the requirements and needs of the bridge to accommodate the illumination project.  In the course of these discussions, the planned conventional street lighting was also evaluated and it was discovered that using LED street lighting would provide a means for the NHDOT to significantly reduce the cost for the street lighting on the bridge. The leadership of NHDOT Commissioner Chris Clement was responsible for the decision to use LED technology for the street lighting which also significantly reduces light pollution, and his support of the illumination project was critical for that project.  According to Keith Cota, “The NHDOT fully supports this community effort and action which is anticipated to benefit the business community and the public at-large on both sides of the river.”  

The issue of light pollution was brought to the Sub-Committee’s attention by two local amateur astronomers and Dark Sky advocates, David Speltz and Bob Gillette. Both requested that there be discussion with NHDOT regarding changing the illumination from an “up lighting” option to one that “down lights” the towers, thereby reducing unnecessary light pollution into the sky.  The NHDOT has agreed to this improvement to the original proposal.  An additional obstacle that arose was the question of exactly how a local citizen’s group would be allowed to transfer funds to a federal project.  This is where the Portsmouth Historical Society (Maryellen Burke and Richard Candee) and the City of Portsmouth stepped up to offer their support to facilitate the fund-raising (and tax-deductible) effort and allow for the transfer of the funds to the NHDOT. 

The Illumination Sub-Committee is now ready to begin the first phase of the fundraising effort to illuminate the new Memorial Bridge by announcing a Pledge-Raising Campaign with the goal of reaching pledges totaling $60,000.  Once this goal has been reached, the Illumination Sub-Committee will begin to collect the tax-deductible donations that are pledged, and continue to fundraise until the initial goal of $80,000 is reached.

“We are confident that our financial goal will be achieved, not only because we are convinced of the great value to the seacoast that this project represents, but also because during the past two months dozens of individuals and groups have already indicated that they want to be part of our fundraising effort.  In fact as of now, our group already has in hand pledges totaling $8,000.  We ask the residents of the seacoast to join with us in this once in a lifetime opportunity to help beautify this new bridge and create a new seacoast icon which will certainly outlive many of us here today,” said Somssich.

Residents and businesses can join the Memorial Bridge Illumination Pledge-Raising effort by contacting:  Rose Eppard at  For general information about the project, please contact Peter Somssich, 34 Swett Avenue, Portsmouth, NH 03801, tel. 603-436-5221.

11 Responses

  1. Wiliam Rocha says:

    Can we please stop wasting money on these frivolous projects? Why don’t you put your efforts and community fundraising into saving the Sarah Long Bridge, which is in desperate need of repair? I’ve been in dialogue with the NHDOT on this matter. I have no “misunderstanding” as to the monumental waste of money this project is. Like I said, I witnessed the guys that worked on the bridge fight to maintain the existing structure and I have no doubt that fancy lighting will soon follow suit as mandatory structural repairs become priority over “decoration”. The businesses in Portsmouth are not allowed to have lit signs to promote themselves and it’s incredible to me that the city would allow an illuminated bridge. I’m wondering how keen the residents of badgers island and the Portsmouth waterfront feel about the project. I’m willing to bet that they’ll voice their opinion after the lights have been installed and have been disrupting their sleep ogle the ambience of their river views.

    • Memorial Bridge PR says:

      Thank you William for your comments and the dialogue that has been occurring between us. NHDOT can certainly gain from your input that you do not support the local effort to incorporate the bridge illumination and have strong feelings toward the local governance by the seacoast communities. I do expect time will determine how supportive this initiative is for the local communities. For further clarification, the operation and maintenance of the Memorial Bridge is not the responsibility of either river communities and falls solely upon NHDOT with funding assistance from MaineDOT. The only local responsibility for maintenance on the new Memorial Bridge will be for the bridge illumination fixtures. If they are not maintained appropriately, the DOT can and will remove them from the bridge.

      The design of this new bridge will greatly increase the Department’s ease of maintenance, especially with the gusset-less plate design of the new bridge. As part of our coordination with Maine DOT, we continue to develop a long-term maintenance program to address the three very important river bridges so that we will never get into the issue of bridge replacement prior to the design life of this bridge, the Route 1 Bypass bridge, or the I-95 bridge.

  2. Mark Grant says:

    You should put a direct donation link on your website. Although I now live in Oklahoma, New Hampshire will always be home. If there was a way, I would make a direct donation.

    Mark Grant

    • Memorial Bridge PR says:

      Mark: We miss you here in NH! How wonderful that you are keeping in touch and support the illumination project. Regarding your request, the answer is yes. The subcommittee is currently setting up an on-line donation method. Stay tuned.

    • Patricia says:

      I live in Nashua and would also like to contribute. Please hurry with the donation availability. Good luck. I think it’s a wonderful project.

      • Memorial Bridge PR says:

        Hi Patricia: The pledge form is located on this webpage on the Committee Documents page. Thanks for your support.

  3. Justin says:

    I work for NHDOT and have grown up near both drawbridges my whole life. I think this is a great idea but lighting the towers would be hard I would think. Also due to law anything that is over 100 feet has to have avation lights and must be lit at night that is a priority. But if you light the towers would it be from the piers?

    • Memorial Bridge PR says:

      Hi Justin: Figuring this out has had a few challenges along the way been these have all been overcome. Yes, the towers will have aviation lights required by FAA and navigation lights required by USCG. The current plan is to down light the towers so compliance with the Dark Skies initiative is met. Stay tuned for further details as the design is completed.

  4. Justin says:

    Cool and thanks.

  5. Alison says:

    Hi–could you please give some insight on what the impact of the lighting will be to those that live right next to the bridge. We are concerned about more light pollution and the impact of this new lighting on those of us who have our residence in the area of Memorial Bridge. Thank you!

    • Memorial Bridge PR says:

      Hi Alison: Thanks for your input on this. The aesthetic lighting is being designed to down-light the towers as opposed to up-lighting. The down-lighting will be very focused on the bridge towers and no excess light is anticipated to impact nearby residents. The lighting designers and the citizens leading this effort are very conscious of how close people, like yourself, live to the bridge. These folks also live in Portsmouth and Kittery. We’ll keep you posted. Right now, the group is trying to raise the money to make this initiative a reality. Please continue to share your concerns with us. Your input benefits many who may have the same questions.

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