A state official says an equipment malfunction left bridge operators temporarily unable to raise a traffic gate on the Casco Bay Bridge twice this week, leading to traffic jams.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said a locking mechanism on one of the gates failed Thursday afternoon for 14 minutes and again Friday afternoon for 16 minutes. The gate involved is on the inbound side of the bridge, leading from South Portland to Portland. Traffic in the opposite direction has not been affected.

The gates are used to stop traffic when the bridge is opening and closing for shipping traffic. There are three gates on each side of the bridge and the gate that has malfunctioned is the middle of the three, Talbot said.

The failure of the locking mechanism meant that bridge operators could not raise the gate along with the other two after the bridge reopened following the passage of a ship.

Talbot said the malfunctioning lock mechanism has been disabled and an electrician is on the bridge working on a solution to the problem, so a recurrence is not expected.

On Thursday, Talbot denied that there were any equipment problems on the bridge leading to the traffic backup early in the afternoon. On Friday, he blamed a “communications gap” for that misinformation, saying the people he normally contacts for information on bridge operations were on vacation.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

[email protected]