Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Memorial Bridge

A new Memorial Bridge has replaced the original Memorial Bridge at the eastern end of Daniel and State Streets. The bridge is crossed by U.S. Route 1 and connects Portsmouth with Kittery.

Seacoast residents welcomed the new Memorial Bridge after its recent opening by driving, bicycling, jogging, and walking across. It seemed like half the population Portsmouth and Kittery traversed the new span over that first weekend, delighted that the two cities are once again joined together.

I was one of them! For the first time in two years, I walked from Portsmouth to Badger Island and Kittery. A round-trip only takes about fifteen minutes, but while I was in Maine, I took the opportunity to have dinner at Warren’s Lobster House.

View from Warren's Lobster House
I was surprised by some of the differences from the old bridge. Thanks in part to modern building materials, the new Memorial Bridge seems lightweight and flimsy compared with the heavy iron of the original. It is a truss bridge with crisscrossing beams overhead, a bike path so riders no longer have to walk their bikes across, and pedestrian sidewalks on both sides of the roadway.

Perhaps its most distinctive feature are the huge anchor chains that counterbalance the ropes used to raise and lower the heavy counterweights.

Old Bridge Walkway

I was surprised to discover that, unlike the old bridge, the sidewalks are not separated from the roadway by barriers or the supporting beams, which are now outside the bridge surface. This might create a safety hazard, because I witnessed several people jaywalking from one side of the bridge to the other – dodging traffic in order to see the view from the other side.

New Bridge Walkway
There are no crosswalks on the bridge or on the Maine side, and the nearest crosswalks on the New Hampshire side are the usual ones that connect Daniel and State Streets. Also, because of the heavy foot traffic, the sidewalk was sometimes blocked by people taking pictures of their friends and family, walkers with dogs, and young families with strollers. These sometimes required others to step off the sidewalk onto the bike path in order to pass, causing frustration for bike riders when their path was blocked.

I'm sure the Departments of Transportation will soon add the finishing touches to the bridge approaches, including a memorial park on the New Hampshire side for the original commemorative plaques, and the new Memorial Bridge will be in operation for many years to come.

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