When a bridge is being repaired or replaced in Virginia, it’s been my experience that locals are unhappy, not over the loss or worry about the bridge, but over the blasted inconvenience. Not so for the 89-year old Memorial Bridge that spanned the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth NH and Kittery Maine. Built between 1920 and 1923, the bridge was dedicated to Americans who served our country during WWI. It supported traffic on foot, bike or vehicle without a toll. Folks around here were very attached to this bridge that served them faithfully for so many years and when it was closed to vehicle traffic in July of 2011 and pedestrians and cyclists in January of this year, it was emotional.
In October, locals staged a farewell party in a park at the foot of the bridge. Music, food, facepainting, games and more attracted a large crowd of young and old, including the mayor and governor, to say goodbye to a trusted old friend. On January 8, there was a walk, the final walk across the Memorial Bridge. Then the bridge closed.
Last week, crowds gathered on both shores to watch the 2-million pound center lift span disconnected, lifted and lowered onto a barge and floated out to sea, bound for a scrap yard somewhere. Artists, camera buffs, television stations marked the occasion by jockeying for position for the best shot. The rest of the old bridge will be removed in the coming months with the replacement bridge to be completed by July of 2013.
My daughter was among those who witnessed the first stage of removal and sent the two photos below:
Meanwhile, when the dust and rust had settled, The Portsmouth Herald’s online publication, Seacoast Online, had a little fun with a photo of the gap in the bridge. They ran a great contest for the best “something” to fill the space with a $50 prize going to the winner.
Here are a few of the entries that are sure to break the somber mood locally and bring a smile: