A barge floats in the center span of the Sarah Mildred Long bridge connecting Kittery with Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Oct. 18, 2017. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald

The projected opening of the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge — between Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire — to vehicular traffic is being postponed yet again, this time possibly until late December.

Ted Talbot, press secretary for the Maine Department of Transportation, said project administrators would be working with its Maine-based general contractor, Cianbro Corporation, to identify which aspects of the project have caused the opening of the bridge to be pushed back a number of times from its original scheduled opening date of Sept. 1. Earlier this month, officials had projected the bridge opening would be Friday, Dec. 1, but that is no longer the case.

“We’re confident the bridge will be open by year’s end,” Talbot said Wednesday. “Any discussion about delays can take place when the bridge is open, but right now all of our energy and resources are focused on getting this bridge open.”

Talbot said the snap change to colder weather was one factor in the project slowing down in the final stages of creating the new bridge connecting Portsmouth with Kittery along the Route 1 Bypass over the Piscataqua River. He said paving the vehicular level of the bridge, one of the final tasks before it can open, becomes more difficult the later construction efforts go into December.

“We’re working really well with the contractor right now, and we’ll have a conversation about what caused these delays, but that is really not the focus right now,” Talbot said. “This is the largest bridge construction project we’ve been a part of, in terms of structure and cost.”

Construction began in 2015 on the new bridge and it has an estimated cost of $170 million. It will replace the original Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which closed in August 2016 after 76 years of use.

The delay in the new bridge opening for vehicular traffic carries a $1,000 per-day penalty for Cianbro for every day the bridge remains unopened to vehicles beyond the original Sept. 1 opening date. There would be additional per-day penalties on Cianbro for every day past the June 1, 2018, deadline of having the entire project complete. That includes removing the construction trestle adjacent the bridge, installing railroad tracks and landscaping on both sides of the bridge.

MDOT officials previously announced the opening ceremony will not coincide with the expected bridge opening, saying it will be scheduled for the spring.

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