Friday, August 24, 2012

Memorial Bridge – First Builder Connected to Current Designer

The Atlas passing under the Memorial Bridge. Without a lift bridge, the river traffic on the Piscataque would be choked off.

Story and photo by Bill Moore
Staff Columnist

Once upon a time, there was this bridge carrying up to 14,000 cars and trucks a day back and forth across the Piscataqua River on the Post Road between Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That structure, the Memorial Bridge, was opened in 1923, and over the past six months -- because it failed a critical safety inspection on July 27, 2011 -- it was pulled down to make room for an innovative first-of-its-kind new bridge that will open in the summer of 2013.
That opening will be accompanied by a grand celebration that you won't want to miss.
In the coming weeks we will be putting a human face on the Memorial Bridge, providing something on its history and the evolving construction of a replacement structure. We'll give you interesting photos and facts about the ongoing work, all the major moments in the birth of this new and historic monument.
Before we go forward, let's go backward a bit to put the whole thing into perspective.
Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian sculptor, painter and architect, first conceived of a lift-bridge back in the 15th century, the idea being that the main span would be lifted upward so river traffic could travel either upstream or downstream under a bridge. Bridges, instead of being barriers to river traffic, became gateways to commerce.
That concept was expanded upon over the years, and a Canadian civil engineer trained at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy, New York, named J.A.L. Waddell, perfected the idea and built hundreds of lift bridges around the world, including the Memorial Bridge.
And, as an extra interesting fact, the company that Waddell founded in 1914 formed the basis of the company -- HNTB -- that has designed the replacement bridge as well. The company doing the construction work is Archer Western.
At this point the 89-year-old bridge has been removed, and preparation is under way for the new, modern structure.
While the work going on right now is fairly dull from a visual standpoint, things will get busy at the end of this year as a new span for the Portsmouth side of the river is assembled at the New Hampshire state dock. That first span will be pieced together aboard the huge barge Cape Cod. Sometime in December, that first span will be floated down the river and placed on the Portsmouth side of the river -- as Mother Nature lifts the barge and span into position with the rising tide, the first step in having a new bridge will be started.
Because there are a lot of facts to digest, there are several links you'll want to check.
The first is brought to you by McFarland Johnson, the public relations company handling the overall presentation of information to the media. See that here:
The second important site to check is this:  It provides you with a real-time look at the work being done on the bridge.