PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — New Hampshire Department of Transportation officials say the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge remains closed to traffic following a malfunction, and it’s possible the span may never reopen.

A tanker struck and damaged the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge on April 1, 2014. The 76-year-old bridge, which connects Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine via the U.S. Route 1 Bypass, malfunctioned at about 11 a.m. Sunday. It is now closed to vehicles.

A tanker struck and damaged the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge on April 1, 2013. The 76-year-old bridge, which connects Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine via the U.S. Route 1 Bypass, malfunctioned at about 11 a.m. Sunday. It is now closed to vehicles. The Associated Press

The 76-year-old bridge, which connects Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, via the U.S. Route 1 Bypass, malfunctioned at about 11 a.m. Sunday and became stuck in its down position.

Because federal law mandates that river traffic takes precedence over cars, the lift span was raised early Monday morning and now remains stuck in its up position.

NHDOT spokesman Bill Boyton says the issue stems from a faulty wheel on the bridge’s southwest corner tower that carries cables for lifting the span.

With the new $172 million Sarah Long Bridge scheduled to open in September 2017, Boyton says the old bridge may remain closed permanently.

The replacement bridge will have a wider roadway that will allow bicycle travel over the bridge. Officials say the height from the river and length of the lift span have both been increased to help with the bridge’s functionality.

The bridge was closed for six weeks in April and May of 2013 after the 470-foot tanker, the MS Harbour Feature, went adrift from its mooring in the Piscataqua River and came to rest against the bridge, damaging four of the bridge’s beams.