Question: Does the Memorial Bridge restrict maritime traffic into the Port of Portsmouth?
Answer: All bridges restrict both maritime and land traffic. The Memorial Bridge has a vertical clearance of 40 meters, and a horizontal clearance of 84 meters. The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge has a vertical clearance of 41 meters and a horizontal clearance of 61 meters, and it sits at a 30 degree angle to the ship channel which further reduces its effective horizontal clearance. [National Bridge Inventory Data, 2008]
Question: Why does the Memorial Bridge have only two years of effective life left?
Answer: Two years is a worst case scenario based on what we know now. What we know is that the bridge is rusting and has been rated at 6% sufficiency. Heavy trucks have been detoured from US1 for several years. NH DOT is conducting an inspection of the bridge this spring to determine bridge safety. The remaining life will be updated based on their assessment.
Question: Why have the states failed to maintain the bridge?
Answer: Most bridges have an expected life span that was established during their original design process. Major bridges typically have design life spans of from 80-100 years. With excellent maintenance, the bridges can last longer. Painting with lead paint was a part of the prescribed maintenance regime a century ago when the bridges were designed. Twenty five years ago or more, we realized the dangers inherent in the use of lead paint. The cost of removing the paint is very high. In many cases, bridge owners have decided to not remove the lead paint and let the bridges rust. The result is all too predictable.