Long Bridge project awarded grant for $25 million

Kittery/Portsmouth Sarah Long Bridge.

TIGER funds earmarked for rail line used for naval shipyard nuclear waste

By Deborah McDermott
dmcdermott@seacoastonline.com
September 09, 2014 2:00 AM

Sarah Long BridgeThe U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a critical $25 million federal grant for the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement project, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King announced Monday night.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx notified the senators during a telephone call Monday.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover (TIGER) grant will be used to fund the rail portion of the bridge. The rail line is used to transport nuclear waste from submarines undergoing maintenance work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, has spoken personally with Foxx to advocate on behalf of Maine’s application for this grant. King has also spoken with Foxx, and in April of this year, both Senators Collins and King wrote to him in support of the project.

“This is fantastic news for Kittery and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which relies heavily on this bridge for the safe transportation of materials from the shipyard,” Collins said.

“The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is a vital link between Maine and New Hampshire that supports regional commerce, promotes local economic activity, and ā€” with the rail line into Portsmouth Naval Shipyard ā€” serves our national security interests,” King said.

The application was jointly submitted by the states of Maine and New Hampshire, which own the bridge. The $172 million bridge project is expected to get under way sometime in the next six months and be completed by 2017. The $25 million TIGER grant was considered crucial, because the U.S. Navy was not going to participate in funding the rail line. If the grant had been unsuccessful, the two states would have had to pick up the additional costs.

“On behalf of the Maine Department of Transportation, I thank Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King for their tireless efforts in recognizing and helping to secure this critical funding for the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge,” said Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt. He said Collins, in her role on the transportation appropriations subcommittee, “continues to lend her great support to the needs of Maine’s infrastructure.”

Last week, Democratic members of the Maine and New Hampshire delegation also took the opportunity to speak with Vice President Joe Biden when he was at the shipyard.

According to Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Biden agreed to do what he could to speak with Foxx in support of the TIGER application.

The Federal Highway Administration has classified the bridge as Structurally Deficient, and has noted its truss spans are fracture critical, meaning that the failure of steel tension members could result in collapse.

According to the Department of Transportation, DOT received 797 eligible applications totaling $9.5 billion from 49 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, compared to the 585 in 2013.

These applications were competing for the $600 million provided in 2014.