New Hampshire Department of Transportation officials say the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge will be closed at least until Monday as they battle the extreme cold weather and repair the middle lift span.
Steve Johnson, the NH DOT's bridge maintenance assistant administrator, updated members of the media on Friday morning about the status of the repair project, which began on Wednesday when the middle lift span was stuck one foot above the road. The bridge has been closed to south bound and north bound traffic since Wednesday afternoon and Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine police continue to divert traffic to I-95.
"My belief is it will be open by Monday barring any other problems that we do not know about," he said.
He said the 10- to 12-member NH DOT crew are using hydraulic jacks to lift the middle span from the north side of the bridge and the south side to get the bridge lift span back into alignment. Johnson said the cold weather that yielded bitterly cold temperatures on Friday morning in the single digits with sub-zero degree wind chill factors definitely "slow us down."
"Realistically, we can only work during the daylight hours," he said.
In addition to the pressure they are getting from Portsmouth area residents and businesses, Johnson said the state agency is also getting a lot of pressure from maritime traffic that cannot go up river to deliver oil, coal and natural gas shipments to companies in Newington.