Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez yesterday reviewed preparations for the construction of the new Memorial Bridge connecting Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine.
"President Obama has proposed a six-year transportation jobs plan that puts people back to work rebuilding America's transportation infrastructure," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Now is the time to connect people who need work with the work we need to do, like replacing this critical bridge."
Mendez's visit follows the president's State of the Union address, in which he called for using funds saved from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down the debt and on a transportation plan that would clear the way for nation building here in the U.S.
"President Obama has called on us to construct bridges, roads, transit systems and airports that are built to last," Mendez said. "It's a great day for this region. Work will start soon, which means jobs as well as a much-needed new bridge."
The $90 million project relies on $72.4 million in federal funding, including a $20 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant in October 2010.
The aged Memorial Bridge now undergoing demolition was permanently closed to traffic in July 2011 for safety reasons, drastically inconveniencing residents and businesses in the region. Trucks and emergency vehicles were already prohibited by a 3-ton weight limit imposed because of severe deterioration, including extensive corrosion and loss of steel sections. Typically 12,100 vehicles would use the bridge each day.
Scheduled to open to traffic in 2013, the new bridge will accommodate future traffic volumes with no load restrictions as well as bicyclists, pedestrians and marine vessels. It replaces a bridge that was ranked highest on the state's priority list, and the costs to operate and maintain the bridge will be lower than with the old bridge.