New Veterans Memorial Bridge opens
The new 1,600-foot Veterans Memorial Bridge connecting Portland and South Portland over the Fore River was officially opened June 28th with many dignitaries and members of the military in attendance.
The new bridge runs parallel to the old Veterans Memorial Bridge that was completed in 1954. The old bridge, now closed, had reached the point of rapid structural deterioration. Construction of the new bridge was considered a safety priority.
The river crossing connects two of southern Maine’s largest communities and is one of the busiest bridges in the state, carrying 22,000 vehicles a day. The new bridge is expected to reduce congestion at a critical intersection on the Portland side where the Fore River Parkway and Valley and Commercial Streets connect to I-295.
Begun in July 2010, the new bridge cost $65.1 million, and $50.8 million of that came from federal funding. The design features plazas at both ends and scenic overlooks. It includes a 12-foot wide dedicated path for walkers and bicyclists. That path is separated from motor vehicle traffic by a curb and metal barrier to ensure safety for all users. Work will continue on the bridge through late fall, together with the demolition of the old bridge. The bridge is a design-build project that employed nearly 20 different Maine firms. Reed & Reed of Woolwich was the primary contractor on the project. T.Y. Lin International designed the bridge.
Among the dignitaries on hand for the opening were Maine’s First Lady Ann LePage; Mayor Michael Brennan of Portland; Mayor Patricia Smith of South Portland; and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, who flew from Washington, D.C., to attend the ceremony.
“The project put people to work and will continue to support economic growth into the future,” said Administrator Mendez. “It represents a long-term investment in transportation that will improve quality of life and promote livability for Portland area residents.”
Mendez stressed the importance of projects like this in helping put Americans back to work. Between 100 and 150 people have been employed on the project since it began two years ago. “That’s big for the economy,” Mendez said.
First Lady LePage saluted the service men and women for whom the bridge was dedicated and cut the ribbon opening the bridge. “To all veterans who are currently serving and to our future heroes, let this bridge be a symbol of your strength, dedication and fortitude. All Mainers salute you,” said LePage.
Fifty soldiers of the Maine Army National Guard, a trolley carrying local, state and federal dignitaries and a contingent of local cyclists were among the first to cross the bridge.