Sunday, January 8, 2012

End of an Era

   I've been living here in Kittery Point for over four years now.  The "center" of this tootsie pop of a populated area is Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  So employment in these parts usually involves crossing the state line into Live Free or Die Land on a daily basis.  The most direct means to cross the tumultuous Pascatiqua River is over the Memorial Bridge.  Since I've lived here there has been a ongoing public discussion about what to do with the Memorial Bridge.  The bridge is falling apart.  Nobody has put a coat of paint on it in a long time.  It has been publicly known that the bridge wouldn't last much longer.  And when it's useful life is expired, crossing into Portsmouth was going to get tricky.  Relying on that bridge for years to cross into Portsmouth for work, Eli and I couldn't imagine having to rely on the alternatives for possibly years while the Memorial Bridge was replaced. 
   Over the past few years during a routine inspection by some DOT inspectors, the bridge would be shut down immediately only to reopen weeks later with some get-by patch on the problem area.  This occurred a few times, three if we're to to believe Wikipedia's version of events.
   This might sound frightening to readers.  Be assured there are two other bridges to get from Maine into the Portsmouth area.  Heading West from the Memorial Bridge you've got your Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, part of the Rte. 1 Bypass, and then there's the I 95 bridge cleverly named Piscataqua River Bridge.  What is so distressing about temporarily losing use of the Memorial Bridge aside from it being the connection from central Kittery to central Portsmouth, is that it is currently the only legal passage across the Piscataqua by foot.  Every other option requires a car and driving it or hitching a ride with somebody else driving. Not only that, but the Sarah Mildred Long bridge is quickly diminishing structurally and will also require replacing in the not far future.  Leaving only the Interstate.  The idea of living way out on this giant potato farm sticking out North into Canada, with just one tenuous thread connecting us to the Lower 47, gives me a sensation of looking over the side of the ship and spotting a large opening in the hull.
   There have been endless open meetings where citizens can voice their opinion on what to do about replacing the Memorial Bridge, how the replacement can be safer, how to support transportation alternatives to driving while the bridge is being replaced.  The State of New Hampshire kept promising to pony up half of the replacement funds needed to get the job done.  While Maine politicians sat on their hands unwilling to accept any of the offers coming from across the line.  Then came the bridge inspection this past summer.  The last straw.  Without notice and easily a year ahead of optimistic schedule, the bridge was inspected and immediately closed for good to automobile use.  Since then it has remained open to foot traffic, also allowing for people to push their bicycles or scooters, mopeds across it's wooden plank sidewalks, the lift still operated to allow passage of large ships carrying scrap metal, salt, underwater communications cable and the like.  That is, until Monday, January 9th, at 8 pm.  That is when the bridge will remain in it's lifted state until the giant wreckahs come to haul it away.  We're bidding adieu to Kittery Point and Maine two days later, which feels like an appropriate time to seek life somewhere across the Piscataqua.
The entrance to the Memorial Bridge, 6:15pm Saturday January 7th

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