Bridge project should bring out region's best

Posted: August 05, 2011 | News Items, Senator Hill, Transportation
Seacoast Online
August 05, 2011

Aug. 3 — To the Editor:

Kudos to Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Pelkey, Kittery Town Manager Jon Carter and Maine state Sen. Dawn Hill for organizing and supporting the public forum on the Memorial Bridge closure and replacement this evening. I found the meeting to be both informative and encouraging.

Attended by Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt, and many other officials from both Maine and New Hampshire, those in attendance were treated to direct and timely communication on the current state of the Memorial Bridge, as well as an outline of the work to come in replacing this important and vital link between our two states.

The officials also listened, with full attention, to comments regarding the continuation of pedestrian traffic over the bridge (including bicyclists and scooters), challenges to now rerouted traffic flow between Portsmouth and Kittery, and to the deep concern, from all parties, for the viability of commercial establishments on either side of the Piscataqua River. I am encouraged that everyone sees the importance of our two communities remaining engaged with, and accessible to, one another, for the duration of this project.

These officials appear to recognize the need both for efficient and timely completion of the bridge replacement, and for total and sustained engagement with our communities as we seek to mitigate the negative impact that this unexpected early closure has presented to us. Let it suffice to say that I believe we are off to a positive start in an otherwise difficult circumstance. The economy could hardly be worse, and the politics of interstate cooperation as tricky to navigate as Portsmouth Harbor itself. We could be far worse off than we presently are.

I encourage everyone in the greater Seacoast area to remain engaged, informed, and open to the expected ebb and flow of ideas, suggestions, and activities that the coming months and years will bring. Dealing with the accelerated deterioration of the Memorial Bridge, challenges to transportation between states, and the design, construction, and financing of the replacement bridge, will surely present many opportunities for disagreement, and conflict, between our communities, officials, and others. It is imperative that we remain committed to listening to and supporting each other as we seek to bridge the divide.

The loss of the Memorial Bridge should not be what defines our communities over the next three years. The effort that begins today, to maintain and strengthen the bonds between our historic and proud cities, will be the real and permanent replacement for our bridge. It is an effort that will require our full and sustained attention and cooperation.

Jeffrey W. Pelletier

Councilor, Kittery Town Council