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N.H.-Maine bridge to remain closed 2 to 4 weeks

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Transportation officials said Tuesday that a bridge between New Hampshire and Maine that was hit by an oil tanker will remain closed to vehicle traffic for two to four weeks.

New Hampshire’s transportation commissioner, Chris Clement, said that four vertical trusses need to be fixed on the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. He visited the bridge Tuesday morning along with Governor Maggie Hassan.

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The bridge’s center lift span is still functioning, however, allow­ing for boat traffic along the ­Piscataqua River.

The 73-year-old bridge is due for replacement in the next several years. It carries more than 15,000 vehicles per day.

The oil tanker broke loose from a pier Monday and struck the heavily traveled bridge connecting Portsmouth, N.H., to Kittery, Maine.

Clement said the department will put out requests for proposals on an emergency contract for the repair work. He told the Portsmouth Herald that the ship’s owners will pay for the work because the cause of the accident rested with the ship or its crew. The ship was registered in Portugal, is owned by the Zacchello Group from Italy, and is managed by Nordic Tankers of Denmark.

The tanker was transporting tallow oil, an animal product that carries less of an environmental risk than a petroleum product in the event of a spill. The Coast Guard said the tanker was moored and somehow became unattached from the peer.

The bridge is one of three connecting Portsmouth to ­Kittery. The Memorial Bridge downriver closed to vehicle traffic in 2011 to allow for a replacement bridge to be built.

The closure of the bridge left just the high-level Interstate 95 bridge open. In January, the Sarah ­Mildred Long Bridge was shut down for several days after its center span got stuck during a routine test.

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