Why is the Memorial Bridge so important?

The Memorial Bridge has been an important crossing over the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME. The bridge, which opened in 1923 and which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, provided a multi-modal transportation system that enhanced trade and commerce, tourism, community life, and the historic and aesthetic character of Portsmouth and Kittery.

How was the decision made to replace the bridge?

The bridge is owned and maintained by a 50-50 joint responsibility agreement the NHDOT and MaineDOT. The new bridge will also be a 50-50 joint responsibility between the DOTs.

The bridge had been determined to be structurally deficient by both DOTs. Based upon the bridge condition and a multi-year study that included extensive public input, the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study, it was determined that the best alternative to address the structural deficiency was to completely replace the bridge, as opposed to rehabilitating it. This replacement project is underway.

Why was a design-build procurement process selected?

Based upon the condition of both the Memorial Bridge and the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge (also in a deteriorated condition) and the fact that transportation network in the area could not function with both bridges being closed at the same time, the design-build method of project delivery was determined to be the best procurement method for the replacement of the Memorial Bridge. The NHDOT has taken the lead role in this project, with MaineDOT and FHWA as their partners.

What is design-build?

Design-build is a project delivery system used in the construction industry. It is a method to deliver a project in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design–builder or design–build contractor. In contrast to “design–bid–build,” design–build relies on a single point of responsibility contract and is used to reduce the project schedule by overlapping the design phase and construction phase of a project.

This Memorial Bridge Replacement Project was awarded to the Archer Western Contractors/HNTB Team. This team 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. The Governor and Executive Council of New Hampshire approved the contract with this team on December 14, 2011.

What are some interesting facts about the original 1922 Memorial Bridge?

The original bridge opened to vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists in 1923. The length of the lift span was 302.5 feet with an open vertical clearance of 150 feet, and a closed vertical clearance of 19 feet. In 2008, the number of lifts that occurred was 4,023. Additionally, each day, approximately 12,000 vehicles trips 900 pedestrian and bicycle trips were made across the bridge. The bridge closed to vehicle traffic on July 27, 2011 and closed to pedestrian and bicycle traffic on January 9, 2012 at 8 a.m.

Why was the original bridge designer, J.A.L. Waddell, so important?

John Alexander Low Waddell (1854-1938) was an American civil engineer and prolific bridge designer, with more than a thousand structures to his credit in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Russia, China, Japan, and New Zealand.

Waddell’s work set standards for elevated railroad systems and helped develop materials suitable for large span bridges. His most important contribution was the development of the steam-powered high-lift bridge. His design was first used in 1893 for Chicago’s South Halsted Street Lift-Bridge over the Chicago River. He designed more than 100 other movable bridges, including the Memorial Bridge. Waddell was a widely respected writer on bridge design, and an advocate of quality training of engineers. Many of Waddell’s surviving bridges are now considered historic landmarks.   More detail is provided on this website under Engineer Profiles!


When will construction start and how long will it take?

Demolition of the Memorial Bridge began in January, 2012 and is complete. The old bridge was completely removed in April, 2012 and construction of the new Memorial Bridge began. The new Memorial Bridge is scheduled to re-open to vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians in the summer of 2013. Please also go to the construction timeline tab of the website for a schedule of progress and what to expect.


What initial design goals were set forth by NHDOT and MaineDOT for the new bridge?

A major design goal of the new bridge was to include modern elements that minimize corrosion and reduce long-term costs to both states. It was anticipated that the new bridge would include both fixed spans and a movable span consisting of a steel truss design that would be visually similar to the existing bridge and also consistent with the surrounding historic structures. In addition, the new bridge design must also meet the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings.

What are the benefits of the new bridge design?

The design of the new Memorial Bridge achieves visual clarity and transparency through design innovations. While maintaining similar size and mass to the original 1922 bridge, the new design includes a simple truss layout with a sleek uniform design and less “clutter” such as ladders, platforms, and machinery which are typically seen on movable bridges. These innovations include the placement of the lift span machinery below deck and placement of the pedestrian walkways inside the truss planes. The tower height is also lower and less intrusive.

The structural design avoids the use of gusset plates (the Achilles heel of truss bridges) which enhances the overall safety and the long-term durability of the bridge. The design innovations allow for an expedited fabrication process which will allow the bridge to be open in the summer of 2013. In addition, the design includes an integrated floor system that will be easier to operate, inspect and maintain over its lifetime, which in turn, decreases the total cost of the bridge to both states.

From a mechanical perspective, the design greatly improves the visibility of the operator, reduces the number operators required, and improves their level of safety. And, this new bridge includes a faster lift bridge cycle time. This is the first such truss bridge of its kind.

The design incorporates many innovations, in much the same way that Waddell’s 1922 Memorial Bridge, that opened in 1923, served as a precursor to 80 years of lift bridge design.   Further details are provided on this website under Design and Construction!

How will bicyclists and pedestrians benefit from the new bridge?

Both of these user groups will benefit from the new bridge design from increased safety measures and camera monitoring from the control house. On each side of the two 11-foot-wide vehicle travel lanes is a five-foot-wide shoulder for bicycle use. The roadway surface or deck will also be a solid surface (as opposed to the open grate surface in the old bridge). Pedestrians will be able to use an additional six-foot-wide sidewalk, also with a solid surface or deck.


What is the cost of the project?

The total project cost is approximately $88,782,000. This cost includes preliminary engineering and right-of-way ($1,662,000), construction engineering ($5 million), project mitigation including public outreach and historic documentation ($700,000) and design and construction ($81,420,000).

The estimated design and construction cost of $81,420,000 can be further broken down into the three bridge sections that make up the complete structure that is being replaced.

These sections include:

  • Memorial Bridge – 50% funded by New Hampshire and 50% funded by Maine. The estimated total cost is $73,838,950.
  • Kittery Approach Span – 100% funding by Maine, estimated at $3,597,800.
  • Scott Avenue Approach – 100% funded by New Hampshire and City of Portsmouth, estimated at $3,983,250.

How is this design and construction project being funded?

The funding sources for construction include:

NH Federal Aid $47,606,079.15*
NH Betterment (State Gas Tax) $2,500,000.00
MaineDOT $30,517,269.75
City of Portsmouth $796,651.10
Construction Total $81,420,000.00**

*This amount includes $20 million TIGER II Grant.
**This amount does not including construction engineering.


What role is the shuttle service intended to provide?

During the approximately 18 months that the Memorial Bridge is being replaced, it is recognized that this creates a hardship to those pedestrians and bicyclists who depend on the bridge crossing as their primary means to get between Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME. The goal of the shuttle service is to mitigate that hardship.

The objective of the shuttle service is to provide a reasonable, alternative method of transportation while the Memorial Bridge is closed for those who have no other means of crossing the river. The shuttle is intended to serve this basic need. The general users of the Memorial Bridge are encouraged to seek alternative means and routes whenever possible. The objective of the overall bridge replacement project is to replace and open the new bridge as quickly as possible to minimize closure time.

The shuttle is starting with a basic level of service for this anticipated basic need. The demand is monitored daily, the service continually evaluated and may be modified, if necessary. The shuttle capacity is 12 passengers with a seven-bike rack and can accommodate two wheel chairs. Go to Information Center section of this web site for the shuttle schedule and other relevant information.


Where can I submit my photos or videos?

If you would like to submit your photos and videos, please do. If these meet our needs we will use them in the project’s newsletters, fact sheets, web site, public education events and similar. In return, you will be given credit for your work in the media where it is used. We’re excited about having the public involved.

How can I get more information about the project?

Please sign up to receive information through the website blog, Facebook, Twitter and e-newsletter (located in the upper right corner of this web site). Also, please go to the contact tab, fill out the form and click submit. This form goes directly to the project’s Public Outreach Coordinator. Your inquiry will be replied to as soon as possible.


How was this project evaluated for its potential impacts and what mitigation is being done?

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 USC 4332(2)(c) as implemented at 23 CFR 771.117(d)(3), the replacement of the Memorial Bridge was evaluated through the categorical exclusion (CE) process which is a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to assess the engineering considerations and environmental effect of the project.

The CE process addressed the cultural and natural environmental resources within the project limits (or area of disturbance) and evaluated the impacts based upon various alternatives. In general terms, the impacts were evaluated based upon several categories including social, economic, natural and cultural resources.

Two notable impact concerns to the social and economic resources was the loss of pedestrian and bicycle access across the bridge during the temporary closure and the potential impact to businesses. The bicycle and pedestrian impacts were addressed by implementing a temporary public shuttle service across the river between Portsmouth and Kittery. The impacts to businesses are being offset by hiring of a public outreach coordinator to provide the conduit for communication and interface between the public agency (owner), contractor, businesses and general public.

Natural impacts consist of, but not limited to, wildlife impacts, floodways, wetlands endangered species, fish habitat, and coastal zone and water quality. Based upon these resources the endangered species and fish habitat resulted in project level considerations that may limit time of year access within the river. To protect managed fish species such as winter flounder, no in-water work will be permitted between March 16 and November 14 of any year. Any silt-producing construction activity within the river shall also be done within cofferdams or similar silt containment structures provided the structures are installed outside the time period noted above.

Cultural impacts consist of general aesthetics, historic properties and archaeological sites. Coordination with state and local officials determined that there would be no recreation areas, or wildlife or waterfowl refuges of national, state, or local significance impacted by the proposed project. Memorial Park, a publicly owned park, will be impacted under Section 4(f) because of its inclusion within two historic districts.

NHDOT coordinated with the NH State Historic Preservation Officer (NHSHPO), the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT), the Maine State Historic Preservation Officer (MESHPO), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to locate and identify historic properties within the area, and determined how these resources would be affected by the proposed project. In addition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), USS Albacore, Historic Bridge Foundation, and Portsmouth Historical Society also became consulting parties to the historic properties preservation review process mandated under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. A Memorandum of “Adverse Effect” was signed on March 3, 2011 for the project. The establishment of the Public Outreach Advisory Committee was one outcome of the process.

Measures to mitigate the anticipated impacts are detailed in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) submitted to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and signed by NHSHPO, the MESHPO, NHDOT, MaineDOT, and by the New Hampshire and Maine Divisions of the FHWA. Briefly, mitigation would include measures to ensure that the bridge design is historically appropriate, that public outreach and education efforts would be implemented, that archaeological protocols would be followed, and that economic impacts to Portsmouth Historic District would abated. The existing memorial plaques on each end of the Memorial Bridge would be conserved and reinstalled. The agreement includes measures to limit impacts from vibrations to historic resources.

What is Section 106 and why is it so important?

In the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Congress established a comprehensive program to preserve the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation as a living part of community life. Section 106 of the NHPA is crucial to that program, because it requires consideration of historic preservation in Federal actions nationwide. Since the Memorial Bridge project has been funded in part by federal dollars, the Section 106 process applies.

Section 106 requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on historic properties and provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) an opportunity to comment on federal projects prior to implementation.

In addition, throughout the Section 106 process, the views of the public must be considered. The NHDOT, MaineDOT, and FHWA are actively seeking comments on this project through the formation of two advisory committees and from the general public. The public participation is a process that is undertaken to seek a consensus about how the effects on historic properties and resources should be handled.

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