Hampton Harbor Bridge Fast-tracked

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DOT: Can finish this year, but with longer delays

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 5, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The Underwood Memorial Bridge
"The Neil R. Underwood Memorial Bridge"
shortly after dedication December 1949

[Photo not in original article.]

HAMPTON -- Officials from the state Department of Transportation (DOT) said they are hopeful to finish the rehabilitation of the Route 1A Hampton Harbor Bridge nine months ahead of schedule.

Denis Switzer, of the New Hampshire DOT Bridge Reconstruction Bureau, recently gave selectmen an update on the project to repair the "red-listed" structure formally known as the Neil Underwood Bridge. He told town officials that the entire project could be completed by June 2010 if they give SPS Construction the green-light to expedite the project.

"The only downside to doing so is that those who drive over the bridge — which has been brought down to one lane alternating traffic during construction — will experience a longer wait at the traffic light," Switzer said.

"There will additional traffic delays this winter and into spring, but we will be out of there nine months early," he said.

Selectmen reacted favorably to the proposal to expedite the project as long as it wraps up in June.

Switzer told selectmen if they decide to move forward with the plan, DOT would send out a press release, as well as install additional signage informing residents of longer traffic delays.

DOT: Can finish this year, but longer delaysDOT: Can finish this year, but longer delays. A detour is in place via routes 286, 1 and 101.

Switzer said the estimated wait time for vehicles at the traffic signal is going to be 33 to 50 percent longer.

"The current wait time is 40 seconds, and it could go up to a whole minute," Switzer said.

Switzer said work on the project will still be conducted Monday through Friday, and two-way traffic will be restored on the weekends.

Selectmen said waiting an extra 30 seconds now will be worth it to get crews off the bridge nine months earlier than originally anticipated.

Switzer said the $6.7 million project incudes replacing the concrete deck and installing automated gates to replace the current manual ones.

Eric Johnson, of SPS Construction, said the plan was to do a quarter of the bridge during each construction season. Work is only being conducted from September to June in order to not interfere with the huge volume of traffic that crosses the span during the summer tourism season.

Johnson said the first two phases have been completed.DOT: Can finish this year, but longer delays.

SPS Construction looks to increase crews and tackle the final two phases now rather than return in the fall.

Selectman Richard Nichols asked if the state would be saving money by allowing the construction firm to do this. Switzer said there could be some savings, but how much is unknown.

Nichols suggested the savings be used to come up with a solution to aid pedestrians who are being impacted now that the sidewalk across bridge is closed. The sidewalk was closed in December as part of the construction project and will not be reopened until June 2010. Switzer said the sidewalk will remain closed, but if the project is completed this year, there will be no sidewalk closure necessary next fall.

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