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Shaheen, Kuster tour Sewalls Falls Bridge and call for its replacement

  • From left, Concord City Engineer Ed Roberge, City Manager Tom Aspell, Mayor Jim Bouley, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster tour the Sewalls Falls Bridge on Friday, September 13, 2013.  The bridge, which opened in 1915, is a one-lane passageway that has fallen into a state of disrepair, and after years of planning, local officials are working to replace it in the coming months.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    From left, Concord City Engineer Ed Roberge, City Manager Tom Aspell, Mayor Jim Bouley, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster tour the Sewalls Falls Bridge on Friday, September 13, 2013. The bridge, which opened in 1915, is a one-lane passageway that has fallen into a state of disrepair, and after years of planning, local officials are working to replace it in the coming months.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Concord City Engineer Ed Roberge, center, stands near a recently repaired spot while giving a tour of the Sewalls Falls bridge to U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, second from left, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, fourth from left, on Friday, September 13, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Concord City Engineer Ed Roberge, center, stands near a recently repaired spot while giving a tour of the Sewalls Falls bridge to U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, second from left, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, fourth from left, on Friday, September 13, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • From left, Concord City Engineer Ed Roberge, City Manager Tom Aspell, Mayor Jim Bouley, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster tour the Sewalls Falls Bridge on Friday, September 13, 2013.  The bridge, which opened in 1915, is a one-lane passageway that has fallen into a state of disrepair, and after years of planning, local officials are working to replace it in the coming months.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Concord City Engineer Ed Roberge, center, stands near a recently repaired spot while giving a tour of the Sewalls Falls bridge to U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, second from left, and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, fourth from left, on Friday, September 13, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster visited the Sewalls Falls Bridge yesterday to express concern about its condition, which Concord officials said is deteriorating while they await federal approval to replace it.

“Hopefully we can help move it along,” Kuster said, as she stood on the steel truss bridge.

City Engineer Ed Roberge led Shaheen, Kuster, Mayor Jim Bouley and other officials on a tour of the bridge across the Merrimack River yesterday morning and showed them its “levels of deterioration.” After holes were found in the bridge this summer, Roberge said the city spent about $30,000 on repairs. Only passenger vehicles that weigh less than 3 tons are now permitted to cross the bridge; that limit increases response times for ambulances traveling to emergencies in East Concord.

The city council voted earlier this year to replace rather than rehabilitate the nearly 100-year-old structure, but the federal government has not yet completed its historical review of the bridge or allowed the city to begin designing a new one.

Shaheen and Kuster sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation on the city’s behalf in July, urging officials to complete their study. Federal funds will cover 80 percent of the roughly $10 million bridge replacement project, and the government must complete a historic preservation review to minimize damage to historic places. That review with the state Division of Historical Resources has delayed the replacement project.

Design work cannot begin without that final approval, even though “the financing is all there,” said City Manager Tom Aspell.

“There are significant issues with the safety of the bridge,” Shaheen said yesterday. “Hopefully we’ll get that decision (from the Department of Transportation) very soon. Congresswoman Kuster and I have weighed in with the Department of Transportation to urge them to move expeditiously so we can replace this bridge as soon as possible.”

Bouley thanked Shaheen and Kuster yesterday for visiting the bridge and working to assist the city.

“Time is of the essence,” he said.

Yesterday morning, officials walked underneath the approach to the bridge on the west side of the Merrimack River. Roberge pointed to deteriorating steel and said the bridge is becoming a safety concern.

“There’s a certain amount of lifetime movement on the steel before it really becomes brittle,” he said. “It’s like a paper clip. You start bending that, and all the sudden it breaks. That’s the issue that we have here.”

Bridges are typically inspected every other year, Roberge said, but officials are now inspecting the bridge every month to determine whether it is safe for vehicles. It is a nonredundant structure, Roberge said, meaning the entire bridge could collapse if one part fails.

“We’ve got a public safety issue, we’ve got a major inconvenience issue, the facilities and the trucks and the school buses and the ambulances have to take a longer way around,” Kuster said. “If you add five or 10 minutes to an ambulance ride, you’re talking about a serious public safety issue in addition to risk of injury from the bridge, actually, at this point. . . . So we need to urge the government to move as expeditiously as possible.”

Shaheen added that the bridge project is an example of much-needed infrastructure improvement.

“Beyond public safety, which is the top priority, for the city to grow, this has to be dealt with,” she said. “And this is the kind of project that we’ve got throughout New Hampshire and all throughout the country; we’ve got red-list bridges that need to be addressed, and we’ve got to start investing in our infrastructure.”

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments24

Shouting Politicians. Maybe Shaheen and Kuster will take their dog and pony show on the road, targeting the few remaining civil engineer heritage bridges left in New Hampshire. They make tempting high profile targets with the TV cameras rolling.... Maybe Mike Marland can lampoon our handful of surviving steel truss spans.

What exactly are you trying to say when you say "they make tempting high profile targets"? if anything happens to them I hope the Monitor has your real name because I am sure the police will want to talk to you.

Well Rabbit, you had one sentence about government not able to run anything and the next about the mall not being run right so I assumed you were just continuing your thought. I said conservatives don't like change and actually that is what the word means. If you are a big believer in change and the future, maybe you should call yourself a liberal.

A more vibrant city in NH? State capitals are not usually in the biggest or most vibrant city in a state. Albany, NY or Montpelier, Vt come to mind. Concord is a nice little city with an interesting downtown. There are restaurants and museums to go to and the Red River and Cap Center for the Arts. It has a small town feel to it when they close up Main St for parades and sidewalk sales. Just from reading the papers it seems to have a lot less crime than Manchester or Nashua. I worked in downtown Concord for 18 yrs and I loved the feel of it and seeing familiar faces. It is growing and some things have to change but it is not all for the worst. I know conservatives hate change but such is life.

You are correct the capital city's of many states are not the biggest or most developed. There are restaurants and museums to go to but the retail side is very lean and very weak. Red River.....a theater for the pretentious who value obscure cinema and sip Merlot as if they are in Europe and oh yes the Capital Center, mostly a place for obscure artsy fartsy folks who enjoy 60's folk artists. Anything they do in downtown Concord will NOT revive the city, it will simply please the aesthetic sensibilities of the elitists and the progressive dilettantes who have no idea of what it takes to revive anything from a downtown to an economy.

The word is cities (plural). Why not have a discussion with Steve Duprey about how you feel about downtown Concord? He might be interested to hear your views on the time and capital he has wasted on the downtown.

I'm not a conservative, but a liberal. I find Concord an unpleasant city and for its size, uninteresting. Since the major retailers went to the mall and other venues away, I feel monies spent downtown are a waste of time and money. People wanting culture. beauty and a vibrant city life would do better going to Portsmouth, Keene, Manchester. Concord should remain the way it is... Why change now? You tear down downtown churches like the White Memorial church for parking for attorneys. Even your newspaper left the city center for digs north. You are you are. Too late to change now.

Any city that wants people to do their shopping in town has to have a mall. A mall means plenty of parking. The mall has been there since 1990 and has its ups and downs but since it has been built I have never shopped in Manchester. It might not be your cup of tea but it doesn't have the traffic nightmare of the other malls during the holidays. This is the kind of attitude that sends young people out of the state. My complaint is there are never any new roads built in NH just the old ones barely maintained. If people had this attitude in the 50's, no highways would have been built here. 393 was supposed to be continued all the way to Portsmouth over 20 years ago. I doubt it will ever happen. Businesses check the road systems before they move companies to a state.

We can add the addition of outlets to the equation of where folks shop. The new Merrimack Outlets will kill the Tilton Outlets. But the thinking is the volume in sales from out of state shoppers makes up for it in revenues. From what I have heard, Merrimack Outlets are not exactly getting rave reviews. Hope I am wrong about that. I like Tilton personally. I have seen many shops and businesses come and go, and they all have one thing in common. Small inventories and high prices. But they also have the best service and are always a terrific environment to shop or do business in. The problem is that the folks who can afford to shop in them have to be able to afford it. That means a good income. If you need school shoes for you kids, and your income is say 50 grand, my guess is that you cannot afford to shop for shoes on Main Street. We are not Concord MA or Portsmouth who have much higher income levels, colleges etc, to support businesses with high prices or designer labels. It is proven over and over that those type of shops fail. Everybody would love to buy top of the line products, but our income levels dictate what we can afford plain and simple.

Others have done it differently. My hometown of Keene for example. We have a vibrant downtown which I love to walk daily. It is far from Concord's dead pavement... Concord's downtown is a bleak and unappealing place. Different set of values I guess. I don't think too many people go to visit Concord, save those with state government business. Just saying.

Not sure what conservatives have got to do with downtown. As far as change goes, you might want to look at your party Tillie. They seem to solve every problem with more taxes and mandates. Does not matter which programs work or do not work, they are the ones who refuse to accept the fact that govt cannot run anything well. The Mall is in financial straights yet again. It is a terrific place to shop because it is not crowded. The problem with the mall is they took out stores that they should not have. That is why they are struggling and folks are shopping at Walmart and Target.

Are you telling me the government is running the mall? And the mall decided by itself to take out stores that were profitable? The discussion seemed to be Concord etc, not mandates and taxes. I never comment on Sail or Van because hey always say the same old thing no matter what the subject is because they have nothing else, seems like you have the same problem. The word is straits.

I have no clue how you went from the mall closing stores to the govt running it. You were the one who said reps do not like change. I responded to that, get it? You opened the door. Feel free to correct my spelling and grammar.

See what historic preservationists are saying about this and other endangered historic bridges at: http://bridgehunter.com/scripts/forum/post.cgi

Another poster bridge for poor highway funding. It is past time for the state to remove its remaining few historic metal truss bridges as well as all stone arch and covered bridges. Only Republican Mitt Romney, as a presidential candidate, condemned a historic span in Hillsboro, NH previously. Now this has become a bipartisan effort. All NH's civil engineering heritage should be removed within ten years. Any examples that survive will continue to plague elected and appointed officials for generations to come. Raze them all. After they have been documented of course with photographs. If tourists want to see civil engineering heritage, point them to... Vermont. Hon. Steven W Lindsey state rep (retired) Keene, NH

Simply not a federal govt job....neither is spending $10 Million to beautify Main Street....At least democrats are consistent in proving they have not a clue to the existence of the 10th amendment

Perhaps we should just block off the bridge and not have one there. Then we could block the road from the other direction and perhaps get some relief as the Monitor folks would not be able to print. But this group of political suits look as if they are experts. Looks like the woman in heels on the right is about to fall down. Did they have lunch at the Monitor after?

I didn't see any republicans tour this dilapidated bridge to put their support behind getting the US government to do it's job on infrastructure in this country!! The party of NO is once again immersed itself in doing just about nothing to advance this country instead obstructing every piece of constructive legislature for the greater good of the middle class of this country. We pay taxes and expect that we will get a return on those taxes as this bridge's replacement is way overdue. So if you right wing nuts have something constructive to say then say it otherwise shut your mouths and stop crying about politicians on the left trying to do something instead of nothing!!! Rich

Maybe the Reps were not invited taz. We all know that the CM is not exactly interested in them unless it is an article to make them look bad. As far as taxes go, you might want to ask where your tax money is spent and where it is not spent. You might also want to hold the folks accountable for stealing from one fund to finance another.

Two thoughts; if Kuster can help get a new bridge sooner than later, at least she'll accomplish ONE thing before she's voted out. Second, when the bridge ends up in the river, hopefully without vehicles, we can ask "why was making downtown prettier more important?"

Good one rje49!!!

It is a tad late to be investing anything in downtown Concord. The decision made to support the Steeplegate Mall set the tone. The die was cast then. Any money spent is throwing good money after bad. I think we should consider moving the state capital to a more vibrant city.

Desperation now the Monitor and the democrat party will do anything to get a photo op for Shaheen and Kuster. You know that Shaheen and Kuster are doing nothing good for us in Washington. Lets vote Shaheen and Kuster out of office ( in November 2014) and give the Monitor something important to report.

If it is so critical and such a safety issue - why does the city of Concord not build it? Why do they keep waiting until someone is killed when it falls? I'm guessing the citizens of Concord are not willing to pay for it.

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