Friday, November 19, 2010

Bridge Plans Move Forward

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
Projects to deal with two of the three bridges over the Piscataqua River that joins Maine and New Hampshire are proceeding.
Decisions have been made on replacing the Memorial Bridge that links downtown Portsmouth with Kittery, while three options are under study and consideration for the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. These include rehabilitation, replacement with a low-level structure, or replacement with a hybrid structure that would allow some of the ships coming up the river to pass beneath it. It would, however, still be a drawbridge as it would lower as well for the railroad that runs under it.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) is taking the lead on the Memorial Bridge project, while the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is leading the Sarah Mildred Long project.
“Right now New Hampshire is in the process of obtaining the permits and preparing the documents to proceed with Memorial Bridge,” Kenneth Sweeney, MDOT’s chief engineer said.
“Maine is taking the lead looking at the three alternates that remain on the table for Sarah Mildred Long and doing some more engineering work to determine which one of those remaining alternates we should proceed with,” Sweeney said.
A Tiger II grant of $20 million from the Federal Department of Transportation has been received “basically for that project,” for the replacement of the Memorial Bridge at its current site, according to Bill Boynton, a NHDOT spokesman. “That was a big deal. It certainly was a shot in the arm.”
The project is estimated to cost $90 million overall. The New Hampshire Legislature has earmarked $44 million for the project.
“Maine and New Hampshire are on the same page that we have to replace that bridge,” Boynton said, noting studies are under way to determine “how we’re going to pay for it. There are still some challenges here.”
In October Maine Gov. John Baldacci and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch co-signed an executive order authorizing the creation of a task force charged with aggressively formulating plans that will allow the two states to develop funding for the projects, identifying joint financing options and proposing any necessary legislation to accommodate bridge construction. Among the two governor’s assurances is a commitment to a full vehicular replacement of the Memorial Bridge.
It is hoped that work on the Memorial Bridge will begin “next construction season,” Sweeney said, noting Maine “still has to go through the legislative process as to funding” for the project. The work is expected to take two years during which time the bridge would be closed to traffic.
Boynton said there is a 16-month waiting period for parts to that structure and some of the units needed would have to be brought in on the river.
Sweeney said work on the Sarah Mildred Long structure would not be done until the Memorial Bridge project was completed so traffic could use it while the other bridge is closed.
Estimates for the work on the Sarah Mildred Long span depends on which of the three projects is finally approved. Refurbishing would be the least expensive and the hybrid would be the most expensive, Sweeney said.
The Memorial Bridge is dedicated to the Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who fought in World War I. It was constructed between 1920 and 1923. It is the only bridge that has provisions for pedestrians and bicycles.
Boynton said a public hearing to discuss the replacement of the Memorial Bridge will be held Tuesday, Nov. 23, in the City Council Chambers at Portsmouth City Hall. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Photo caption: Memorial Bridge, one of the three bridges connecting Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME over the Piscataqua River, will be rebuilt based on recent decisions including both states. (Photo courtesy

Tree Festival Returns to York

The time has once again arrived for the 5th Annual Festival of Fostering Trees, taking place this year at the American Legion Function Hall at 9 Hannaford Drive in York during the first weekend of December.
The Festival’s mission is to encourage the community to join each other in not only viewing the “fostered” trees, but also working together to decorate them. The Festival of “Fostering” Trees (FOFT) donation collections support York County youth in foster care settings. Their goal is to serve the unique needs of each youth in a responsible and cost effective manner while easing the difficulties that these youth experience, with support and dignity. The Festival was started in 2006 with the specific goal to bring the “magic” that this Festival provides to the town of York!
How do you participate? Contact Janalee at or at 351-1988 by Monday, November 22 to complete an entry form. Once registered, families or individuals donate a decorated artificial Christmas tree, any style or fashion, traditional or non-traditional, using any type of materials, and the tree will be raffled off at the end of the festival. All trees will be set-up and decorated by the participants, and all participants are asked to write your tree’s name on your tree box. Extension cords are provided.
If you don’t have an artificial tree to donate, a limited number of artificial trees are available for a minimal cost, and can be secured by inquiring at the time of entry. If you wish to donate something else instead of a tree, monetary donations and gift certificates are great ways to participate in the Festival, and all items will be used appropriately to contribute to the community. Free refreshments will be available, as well as many items to purchase provided by Pub 56 in the lounge area of the American Legion.
For those decorating trees, you could create your own masterpiece by creating a specific theme for your tree (ocean, hand-made ornaments, specific colors), create a non-traditional tree by utilizing non-specific Christmas items (tools, household items, collectables), create a money tree with scratch tickets, advertise your business with products, items or gift certificates from your establishment, dedicate a tree in someone’s memory and use their inspiration to decorate your tree, or stick with a classic Christmas theme.
Tree set-up by participants will take place on Thursday, December 2 from 9am-3pm. The viewing of the trees will take place on Friday, December 3 from 10am-8pm, Saturday, December 4 from 10am-8pm, and Sunday, December 5, from 10am-4pm. A raffle will take place at 4:15pm with calls placed from 6-9pm. Pick up of all trees must take place on Monday, December 6 from 8am-12pm. Admission is free, but a voluntary donation for the York Food Pantry (a non-perishable item), a Toys for Tots gift (new and unwrapped), or a monetary donation for either organization are encouraged. You do not have to purchase raffle tickets in order to view the beautiful trees, so come and enjoy the Festival along with your community and celebrate the season!
Photo caption: A few of the trees at a previous Festival of Fostering Trees event in York. This year’s participants must register by Monday, November 22. The event will take place the first weekend of December. (Courtesy photo)