Monday, May 20, 2013
PORTLAND — After two years of construction, the new Veterans Memorial Bridge is ready to open.
Local, state and federal officials will gather Thursday morning to dedicate the $63 million span over the Fore River.
By Thursday afternoon drivers will be able to use the new four-lane bridge connecting Portland’s West End and Commercial Street neighborhoods with South Portland.
“We really wanted to open before July 4 and we accomplished our goal,” said Jeraldine Herrera, the project’s spokesperson.
A mild winter allowed construction to proceed without delays, which led to the earlier than anticipated opening.
Herrera said the new bridge will feature a 12-foot-wide dedicated path for pedestrians and bicyclists that will be separated from travel lanes by a curb and metal barrier.
Gateway plazas at both ends of the bridge will be landscaped, with the Portland end featuring a veterans’ plaza that recognizes the five branches of the military.
The bridge will also contain three overlooks with benches for people who want to sit and enjoy views of the Fore River.
Reed & Reed, a Woolwich-based contractor, began construction of the new bridge in June 2010.
The new bridge will replace the old Veterans Memorial Bridge, which was built in 1954 to carry traffic over the Fore River. The old bridge will be demolished and removed in December.
Thursday’s celebration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Portland entrance to the new bridge. The ceremony will include a raising of the colors by the Maine Honor Guard, a small parade, live music and a wreath-laying ceremony.
The Fore River Parkway will be closed to traffic during the ceremony, except for vehicles coming to and from Mercy Hospital.
Guests will include the mayors of Portland and South Portland, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez and First Lady Ann LePage.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony. Shuttle service will be available along Commercial Street. The new bridge will be open to pedestrians and bicyclists from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
The new bridge has been designed to last 100 years.