New Hampshire

New Lane Closures Cause Inconvenience on Piscataqua River Bridge

Maintenance on the bridge is scheduled to be completed by 2022

While maintenance continues on Maine's Piscataqua River Bridge, the multi-year rehab has become more tangible for some drivers recently.

The bridge carries Interstate 95 between Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In June, the Maine and New Hampshire Departments of Transportation began a $53 million project that is the first of its kind performed on the bridge since it opened in 1972.

On Tuesday morning, a busy on-ramp for the bridge, exit 7NB off Market Street closed in Portsmouth. That closure comes on the heels of Exit 1 on and off ramp closures in Maine and lane closures on the bridge itself.

Some of the ramps won't reopen until 2021, creating multiple detours and potential slowdowns drivers will have to manage for years.

"We know it's an inconvenience but we hope people understand," Maine’s Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Merrill said. "It's going to be a better, safer corridor."

Improvements will smooth over a decades old roadbed on the bridge and set up the DOT to potentially use breakdown lanes as fourth travel lanes during peak travel summer travel times.

But getting to that point will take at least a few years, forcing local drivers in seacoast New Hampshire and Maine to plan ahead to avoid problems like concrete barriers "triggering lane departure systems."

Others say they have no trouble navigating alternative routes since "bridge construction has become a way of life" in the area, with multiple major crossings being either rehabbed or rebuilt over the past few years.

Because the Piscataqua River Bridge is the only interstate crossing, it will be especially high impact.

To reduce headaches, DOT drivers have been testing detours, some of which have only added "two and a half minutes" to normal travel times, according to Merrill.

And though the late fall brings the least traffic of the entire year to the bridge, Merrill says work will still slow down during heavy use periods, like the days before and after Thanksgiving when lane closures will be adapted to allow more traffic through.

Merrill also explained anyone who wants to plan their trip around construction can go to Maine Ahead Building a Better Gateway's website to get the latest closure updates.

The full bridge rehab is expected to be complete in 2022.

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