Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Bridges of Portsmouth, NH

General Sullivan Bridge
I moved to New Hampshire's seacoast area when I started at the University of New Hampshire, and left five years later when I moved to California to start my career of always being at the hot technology companies just after they were no longer hot. These were the first five years of my adult life; I went to school, I fell in love, I got married, worked at a radio station and three startup tech companies (EZ Data, Enterprise Systems, and a third, the owner of which would prefer I don't talk about my time there on the Internet, as I found out the last time I did so).

Anyway, EZ Data was based out of Newington, and A... the unnamed company was based out of Portsmouth, and we lived in Dover, so every single day we would cross this beautiful old bridge, the Sullivan Bridge, our first bridge of the three in this post. Below the bridge was Hilton Park, where we could bring our lunches and watch the boats sailing on Little Bay.

After we left for California, they closed the bridge, which was used for southbound traffic when we lived there, and it is now used only for pedestrian traffic. The state is now deciding whether to renovate it for traffic, just tear it down, or replace all the bridges with a super-wide bridge. These bridges are the bottleneck for traffic from the Portsmouth area to the 'burbs to the north.

I'm hoping for restoration for traffic, of course. Though it would be hideously expensive, it is the second most historic bridge in the area.

Well, that was before Portsmouth decommissioned the first most historic bridge, the Memorial Bridge.

Sarah Mildred Long Bridge
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is more commonly known as "the middle bridge". It connects the city of Portsmouth with Kittery, Maine, home of a naval base and the Kittery Trading Post. It is one of two drawbridges across the Piscataqua River, and with the decommissioning of the Memorial Bridge, the only one that remains.

The bascule (the moving bit) lifts every fifteen minutes during the day to allow traffic through, but this bridge has a secret. Automobile and truck traffic runs along the top, but there is a train track that runs along the bottom. If a boat comes by that could get by if the train track section just weren't there, the bridge master can slide the bottom part to the side.

The Memorial Bridge looks similar to the Long Bridge, but with curvier trusses on either side of the bascule. I'd have pictures of it, but A) they re-arranged the Portsmouth traffic so much that I couldn't find it, and B) I thought this WAS the Memorial Bridge. Which shows how memory fades after a quarter century away. Anyway, C) they decommissioned it.

I'll get it next time, what's left of it.

Piscataqua River Bridge
The Piscataqua River Bridge rises dramatically high above the Portsmouth skyline. Like the Memorial Bridge and the Long Bridge, the Piscataqua River Bridge crosses the (wait for it) Piscataqua River and connects the city with Kittery, Maine, bringing a northern cap to New Hampshire's colorful and historic eleven miles of coast.

Out of all the cities I have lived or worked in, Portsmouth was the most beautiful. Watching a live performance of "Grease" on the lawn on Strawberry Bank, staggering drunkenly through snow shrouded city streets singing sea shanties after a memorable meal at The Library, geeking out with plastic baggy video games at the Atari Computer Club, lining up outside the Jerry Lewis Cinema to see The Empire Strikes Back... it's a painfully breathtaking example of a New England seacoast town.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is now the focus of attention for rehabilitation? After hearing the plan for its removal, a movement to save the bridge has started. According to concerned citizens, the removal of the bridge could imperil the mission of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. There would be the inability to remove nuclear waste and resupply heavy freight. Hopefully, things will turn out for the better.

    Salvatore Aguilar