Concord Officials Seek Congressional Help In Replacing Century-Old Bridge

Sep 13, 2013

Concord city officials are asking New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation to help speed up the process of replacing the nearly century-old Sewalls Falls Bridge.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster toured the bridge on Friday.

Built in 1915, the Sewalls Falls Bridge certainly looks its age.

Its underbelly is coated with rust. Steels beams are worn down.

At the base of the single-lane span, city engineer Ed Roberge describes the problem.

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

The city wants to replace the bridge, a project with a price tag of roughly $10 million. Federal funding would cover 80 percent of the cost.

But there have been delays during a required historical preservation review.

Some believe the bridge should be maintained in some way.

But Roberge says the longer the review process, the less safe the bridge becomes.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re really concerned about the safety of the bridge and leaving the bridge open. We do monthly inspections now. Usually you inspect a bridge every other year.”

The city recently downgraded the bridge’s weight limit from 10 tons to three tons. That has forced emergency personnel to use the highway, lengthening response times for some.

Both Shaheen and Kuster are urging the federal Secretary of Transportation to fast-track replacement.