Memorial Bridge (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

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World War I Memorial Bridge
Memorial Bridge (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) April 2016.JPG
The new Memorial Bridge
Coordinates 43°04′46″N 70°45′09″W / 43.07938°N 70.75255°W / 43.07938; -70.75255Coordinates: 43°04′46″N 70°45′09″W / 43.07938°N 70.75255°W / 43.07938; -70.75255
Carries US 1
Crosses Piscataqua River
Locale Portsmouth, NH and
Kittery, ME
Official name The Bridge Memorial to Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who gave their lives in World War I[citation needed]
ID number 021702470008400[1]
Design Vertical-lift bridge
Total length 366.1 m (1,201 ft)
Width 8.5 m (27.9 ft)
Longest span 91.5 m (300 ft)
Clearance below 39.6 m (129.9 ft) (Lift span open)
Opened August 8, 2013
Toll None

The World War I Memorial Bridge is a vertical-lift bridge that carries U.S. Route 1 across the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Badger's Island in Kittery, Maine, United States. The current bridge was opened in 2013, replacing a bridge of similar design that existed from 1923 to 2012. A large overhead plaque facing traffic on the bridge reads "Memorial to the Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who gave their lives in the World War 1917–1919."

The lift span can be fully opened to allow large commercial vessels to pass. During summer, the lift section remains partially elevated every half-hour between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for about 15 minutes. This allows smaller commercial and recreational boat traffic. The bridge is currently the only one of the three Piscataqua River bridges with provisions for pedestrians and bicycles. New Hampshire and Maine designated the bridge as part of their State Bicycle Routes, and the bridge is part of the proposed East Coast Greenway.[2]


Previous bridge[edit]

Constructed between 1920 and 1923, the original Memorial Bridge was the first without toll to span the Piscataqua between Portsmouth and Kittery. The bridge was constructed as a joint venture between the states of Maine and New Hampshire and the federal government. It was dedicated as a World War I memorial.

The opening ceremony for Memorial Bridge was held on August 17, 1923.[3] Five-year old Eileen Foley cut the ceremonial silk ribbon to officially open the bridge.[3] Foley would later serve as mayor of Portsmouth for eight terms from 1968-1971, 1984-1985 and 1988-1997.[3] In August 2013, she returned to dedicate the bridge's replacement 90 years later.[3]

Originally, the road over the bridge was part of New England Interstate Route 1, also known as the Atlantic Highway. When the New England routes were superseded by the United States Numbered Highways in 1926 it was redesignated as US 1.

Old bridge emergency closures[edit]

On October 16, 2009, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the Maine Department of Transportation announced the immediate closure of the bridge to all motor vehicle traffic for emergency repairs.[4] The bridge was reopened on November 20, 2009, following completion of repair work, and was reposted at a three-ton weight limit.[5]

On December 9, 2010, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation announced an immediate closure of the bridge (effective 12:00 pm on the same day) to all motor vehicle traffic. This announcement came upon the findings of a regular bridge inspection, which led to observations of significant safety concerns. The bridge was reopened to vehicles under three tons on December 18, 2010, following emergency repairs.[6] Plans for replacement continued to move forward.[7]

Final bridge closure and demolition[edit]

The old bridge, seen from Prescott Park in Portsmouth

On July 27, 2011, the Memorial Bridge was permanently closed. An inspection cited "too many problems in too many places." Portsmouth resident Eileen Foley, who at age 5 cut the ribbon to open the bridge at a 1923 ceremony, tied a blue ribbon onto the bridge's plaque for the closing ceremony on October 1, 2011.[8] Foley served multiple terms as Portsmouth's mayor during the lifetime of the bridge.

On January 3, 2012, the NHDOT announced that the bridge would be permanently closed to pedestrians and cyclists on January 9, 2012. The NHDOT operated an hourly shuttle bus between Portsmouth and Kittery until the new bridge was complete.[9] The center span of the bridge was demolished on February 8, 2012.[4][10]

Bridge replacement[edit]

Because of the condition of the bridge, vehicles weighing more than 20 tons were prohibited. This restriction was lowered to 10 tons on July 10, 2009.[4] A rehabilitation project for the bridge was planned for 2009, pending funding. The project was expected to last two years and cost more than $30 million.[11] It was expected that the federal government would cover 80% of the cost. The rest would have been split between Maine and New Hampshire.[citation needed]

The Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project was placed on hold in 2009 because the winning bid for the contract came in $15 million over the intended budget.[12] This stalled rehabilitation project together with proposals to demolish and replace the bridge were factors in the inclusion of the bridge in the National Trust for Historic Preservation list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2009.[13]

On May 6, 2010, the Senate Transportation Committee of the New Hampshire legislature unanimously voted to include $44 million in bonds that, in addition to other state and federal funds, would allow the Memorial Bridge to be replaced without further funding from Maine, which is half-owner of the bridge.[14] This plan was contingent on approval by the full legislature, an agreement with the State of Maine, and availability of federal stimulus funds.[14] George Campbell, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Transportation, said at a Portsmouth City Council meeting in 2010 that the bridge was too far beyond repair for rehabilitation.[14] Original bridge piers would be reused. The replica would look similar to the original span.

The new bridge was officially dedicated at a ceremony on the New Hampshire side of the span just before noon on August 8, 2013.[3] Former Portsmouth Mayor Eileen Foley returned to cut the red ribbon 90 years after she performed the same honors for the original span in 1923 when she was five years old.[3]

The bridge initially opened to only pedestrians and bicyclists. The new bridge - constructed over two still existing piers - opened to vehicular traffic at 2:00 p.m., first with southbound traffic (Maine to New Hampshire), and then northbound. Additional work on the new bridge was finished in November 2013.[15]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Bridge Inventory Bridges - 021702470008400". Retrieved 2006-09-29. 
  2. ^ Seacoast Area Bicycle Routes. "Rehabilitation of Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth NH". Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Haas, Kimberly (2016-02-22). "Ex-Portsmouth Mayor Eileen Foley dies; city, state officials mourn". New Hampshire Union Leader. Archived from the original on 2016-02-23. Retrieved 2016-03-06. 
  4. ^ a b c NHDOT. "Memorial Bridge Being Closed for Necessary Repairs". Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  5. ^ NHDOT. "Memorial Bridge Reopening Today to Vehicle Traffic". Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  6. ^ NHDOT. "Memorial Bridge to Reopen Today Following Repairs". Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  7. ^ NHDOT. "Tiger II Funding Secured For Memorial Bridge Replacement". Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  8. ^ PortsmouthPatch. "Memorial Bridge Gets Send Off". 
  9. ^ NHDOT (January 3, 2012). "Memorial Bridge Closing to Walkers and Cyclists on January 9". Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  10. ^ WMUR (February 9, 2012). "Center Span Of Memorial Bridge Removed". Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ Wood, Roger. "What to Do When Memorial Bridge Is Under Repair - New Hampshire Public Radio". Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  12. ^ Darman, David (2009-05-01). "Stalled Memorial Bridge Repairs Frustrate Portsmouth Residents - New Hampshire Public Radio". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  13. ^ National Trust for Historic Preservation (2009-04-28). "11 Most Endangered - Memorial Bridge - 2009". Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  14. ^ a b c (2010-05-07). "New Hampshire will save the Memorial Bridge". Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  15. ^ "New Memorial Bridge Set to Open on August 8". NHDOT. NHDOT. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 

External links[edit]