Sarah Long Bridge closed for at least this week
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (WHDH) -- Transportation officials said Tuesday afternoon the Sarah Long Bridge will remain closed until at least the end of the week after a tanker broke loose from the pier and crashed into it.
On Monday, a nearly 500-foot tanker broke loose of its moorings and quickly drifted in strong currents, smashing into the Sarah Long Bridge; one of just two crossings between New Hampshire and Maine in the area.
"I can't believe it. I've never seen anything like that happen before. It’s very wild,” said Kim Twombly, a Maine resident.
New Hampshire transportation officials said the mishap caused significant damage to the 70-year-old bridge, tearing off granite from two huge support pillars, damaging steel beam supports, and even lifting up and cracking sidewalks above as the tanker rose in the tide.
Officials said the busy bridge will be closed to drivers for days at a minimum.
“This is a big fix, because we have structural damage. We’re going to need to get a work barge in here that we can work from,” said Chris Clement, New Hampshire Department of Transportation commissioner.
About 14,000 drivers a day use this bridge. The bigger span that carries Interstate 95 traffic is the only option now -- and locals from Maine and New Hampshire say it’s an inconvenience.
"Right now it's I-95 or swim,” said Jim Lee, a local real estate broker.
Coast Guard investigators said the ship suffered a gash above the waterline but none of its cargo of tallow oil leaked. They're still trying to figure out why the big tanker broke loose.
"We'll get to the bottom of exactly what happened with the goal of keeping it from happening again in the future," said Lt. Nick Barrow, U.S. Coast Guard.
The good news it's not leaking oil into the water in the governor said they still don't know how this happened or the full extent of the damage.
“It’s still being assessed. There are divers looking at what has happened below water to the piers and obviously engineers looking at the supports on the bridge. The bridge will stay closed to vehicles,” said New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.
Vehicles had to go over the I-95 bridge. There was no traffic backup, but the bridge is going to have to deal with about 14,000 extra cars a day while the Sarah Long Bridge is closed.