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
Coordinates43°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 USBR 1
CrossesPiscataqua River
LocalePortsmouth, NH and
Kittery, ME
ID number021702470008400[1]
DesignVertical-lift bridge
Total length366.1 m (1,201 ft)
Width8.5 m (27.9 ft)
Longest span91.5 m (300 ft)
Clearance below39.6 m (129.9 ft) (Lift span open)
OpenedAugust 8, 2013

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 carried over from the original 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. 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]

Original 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, and dedicated as a World War I memorial.[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 When the New England routes were superseded by the United States Numbered Highways in 1926 it was redesignated as US 1. It was additionally designated as US Bicycle Route 1 in May, 2011 as part the first major expansion of the United States Bicycle Route System since its creation in the 1980s.[4]

At the bridge's dedication on August 17, 1923, five-year old Eileen Foley—known then by her birth name, Helen Dondero[3]—cut the ceremonial silk ribbon to officially open it to traffic.[5] Foley would later serve as mayor of Portsmouth for eight terms (1968–1971, 1984–1985 and 1988–1997).[5] Foley tied a blue ribbon onto the bridge's plaque for the closing ceremony on October 1, 2011.[6] On August 8, 2013, she returned to dedicate the replacement bridge, 90 years after the opening of the original bridge.[5] She died in February 2016.[5]

Deterioration and replacement plan[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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Closure and demolition[edit]

The old bridge, seen from Prescott Park in Portsmouth

Emergency repairs caused a month long closure in October–November 2009,[11] and a ten-day one in December 2010.[12] Plans for replacement continued to move forward.[13] On July 27, 2011, the Memorial Bridge was permanently closed. An inspection cited "too many problems in too many places."

On January 3, 2012, the NHDOT announced that the bridge would be further 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.[14] The center span of the bridge was demolished on February 8, 2012.[7][15]

New bridge[edit]

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.[16] This plan was contingent on approval by the full legislature, an agreement with the State of Maine, and availability of federal stimulus funds.[16] George Campbell, commissioner of the NHDOT, said at a Portsmouth City Council meeting in 2010 that the bridge was too far beyond repair for rehabilitation.[16] Original bridge piers would be reused. The replacement would look similar to the original span. The bridge was designed by Theodore Zoli of HNTB and built by Archer Western Contractors.[citation needed]

The new bridge was officially dedicated at a ceremony on the New Hampshire side of the span just before noon on August 8, 2013.[5] 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.[17]

On the night of February 25, 2022, the bridge was lit in the colors of the Ukrainian Flag in a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[18]


Original bridge[edit]

Replacement bridge[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Bridge Inventory Bridges - 021702470008400". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-09-29.
  2. ^ Seacoast Area Bicycle Routes. "Rehabilitation of Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth NH". Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  3. ^ a b "New Bridge Opened for Traffic". The Portsmouth Herald. Portsmouth, New Hampshire. August 17, 1923. p. 1. Retrieved March 31, 2018 – via
  4. ^ "Adventure Cycling Association: It's Official! New U.S. Bicycle Routes Approved". Adventure Cycling Association. 2011-05-11. Archived from the original on 2011-05-21. Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  5. ^ a b c d e 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.
  6. ^ PortsmouthPatch (2 October 2011). "Memorial Bridge Gets Send Off".
  7. ^ a b NHDOT. "Memorial Bridge Being Closed for Necessary Repairs". Retrieved 2009-10-16.
  8. ^ Wood, Roger. "What to Do When Memorial Bridge Is Under Repair - New Hampshire Public Radio". Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  9. ^ Darman, David (2009-05-01). "Stalled Memorial Bridge Repairs Frustrate Portsmouth Residents - New Hampshire Public Radio". Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  10. ^ National Trust for Historic Preservation (2009-04-28). "11 Most Endangered - Memorial Bridge - 2009". Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  11. ^ NHDOT. "Memorial Bridge Reopening Today to Vehicle Traffic". Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  12. ^ NHDOT. "Memorial Bridge to Reopen Today Following Repairs". Retrieved 2011-06-29.
  13. ^ NHDOT. "Tiger II Funding Secured For Memorial Bridge Replacement". Retrieved 2011-06-29.
  14. ^ NHDOT (January 3, 2012). "Memorial Bridge Closing to Walkers and Cyclists on January 9". Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  15. ^ WMUR (February 9, 2012). "Center Span Of Memorial Bridge Removed". Retrieved February 9, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ a b c (2010-05-07). "New Hampshire will save the Memorial Bridge". Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  17. ^ "New Memorial Bridge Set to Open on August 8". NHDOT. NHDOT. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  18. ^ "Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth lights up blue and yellow for Ukraine". WMUR. 2022-02-26. Retrieved 2022-02-27.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]