New Interstate Bridge for NH and Maine

The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, one of three bridges connecting Maine and New Hampshire, was named after a long-time employee of the NH Department of Transportation.  But the bridge, badly deteriorating, has been weight posted, and is near the end of its safe, useful life.

A view of the current Sarah Long Bridge – Roger Wood photo

The Federal Transportation Department has called the span structurally deficient, and that certain structural failures could result in a complete collapse.  So, members of the New Hampshire and Maine Congressional Delegations successfully lobbied the Feds for a $25 million dollar grant, awarded mainly because of an existing rail line across the current bridge that allows the Portsmouth Navy Yard to transport nuclear waste across the Piscataqua River by train.  The rest of the approximately $173 million dollar cost will be split between the two states, in a similar arrangement that resulted in a rebuilding of the nearby Memorial Bridge.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and DOT Comm. John Clements – Roger Wood photo

I attended a briefing by NH DOT officials who updated New Hampshire Senior U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen on the project.  Here is a short video introduction featuring the Senator and NH DOT Commissioner Chris Clement.  An audio podcast follows directly below.

You can listen to my audio podcast on the huge bridge public works project by clicking on the arrow below or the download link, depending on your device.

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DOT officials say that the bridge construction design will allow for fewer openings for smaller boats, since the span height will be higher than the current bridge.

New Sarah Long Bridge concept image – Courtesy NH DOT

Right now, they say that the earliest the old bridge would be completely closed to vehicle traffic is 2016.  They also say there will be no bicycle lane planned for the bridge.  Bicycles are currently permitted on the Memorial Bridge only.

 

 

 

 

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A “Milestone” for a Large Bridge Building Project

For decades, the only practical travel Route between the New Hampshire Seacoast and points North has been the Little Bay Bridge on the Spaulding Turnpike.

Existing Little Bay Bridge – DOT Courtesy Photo

The only problem is, the two lanes North and Southbound are often clogged with morning and evening commuter traffic, or backed up by accidents or slippery conditions.  Now, that particular nightmare could be closer to resolution.  The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) announces the                                                                                            planned opening of the new bridge over                                                                                              Little Bay on the Spaulding Turnpike.

 

New Little Bay Bridge Project – Cianbro Corp. photo

  This bridge opening will require a major traffic shift on the Spaulding Turnpike southbound between Exit 6 in Dover and Exit 3 in Newington that will have a significant impact on traffic on Friday, November 21, and Saturday, November 22, 2014.  I spoke to Bill Boynton of the NH DOT about the bridge project, and its ramifications.  The interview podcast can be heard by clicking on the arrow below or download link, depending on your device.

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Starting  at 9:00 am on Friday, November 21, traffic from US Route 4 and Dover Point Road at the Exit 6 southbound on-ramp will be restricted to a single lane and a short acceleration lane to merge with the Spaulding Turnpike traffic.

Little Bay Bridge under construction – Casco Bay Steel Photo

At 8:00 pm, Spaulding Turnpike southbound traffic will be restricted to one lane.  It’s anticipated that the traffic shift will take at least 24 hours to complete.

At the conclusion of the traffic change, two lanes of southbound traffic will be restored and will then be traveling over the new Little Bay Bridge and connect in Newington to the current traffic pattern south of Exit 4. The left Exit 3 southbound to Woodbury Avenue ramp will remain open through the winter months.  Northbound traffic will remain in its current configuration.

 

During this time period, motorists traveling southbound on the Spaulding Turnpike should expect delays and be prepared to stop if traffic backs up.

Historic bridge illustration – Courtesy photo

Those seeking to travel from Durham to Portsmouth might consider the alternative route of NH Route 108 south to NH Route 33.  Travelers from the north on the Spaulding Turnpike could consider the alternate route of using Route 236 in Maine. State Police will be used to alert the traffic to the restricted lane conditions. Message boards will alert traffic to the construction work activity, and provide information to help traffic proceed through the work zone.

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SCAM ALERT: WATCH OUT FOR THIS ONE!

On a recent evening, I received a telephone call on my cell-phone from a person who said she is collecting funds for breast cancer victims as part of a breast awareness campaign.  She continued  from a script which read that the money would go to people for services.  I get a lot of fund-raising calls, and always wonder what percentage of the money actually gets to those in need.  This time, I asked, and was surprised when she stated that 5 cents of every dollar would be in direct aid.  Asked about where the other 95 per cent winds up, she pointed out that administrative costs were responsible.  ”So you’re claiming to help people suffering with cancer while pocketing the rest for your organization?”  There was silence on the phone after my question.

A friend of mine around the same time was called by a person saying that his group is involved in fundraising to help American disabled veterans.  When he asked how much the veteran would receive, the caller hung up.

A scam, but legal:  The lesson; ask the caller to specify how much of the money goes to the beneficiaries of this fundraising.  You may be surprised.

 

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Mid-Term Election Excitement – Voters Are Involved

Election 2014 could be a mid-term vote that changes the complexion of the federal government.

Election 2014 campaigners – Roger Wood photo

The race between incumbent U.S. Senator Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and former Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown has captured the imagination and concern of political junkies and voters across the nation. Shaheen, in an atmosphere of negative campaigning on TV and the internet, has stressed her long career in public service. Brown, who claims residency in New Hampshire from an early age, is stressing his opponent’s allegiance to President Barack Obama. In one interview in a podcast you can hear below, a campaigner likens this and other contests to a referendum on the President. You can listen to the podcast interviews after this short video with the moderator of the largest voting ward in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Susan Hubbard.

 

Outside the busy polling place, I spoke to campaigners for both the Democratic and Republican parties.  Allen Gordon stood outside holding signs for both Shaheen and First District Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter, both considered vulnerable by Republican candidates. John Formella was holding a sign for friend, Phil Nazarro, who is running to replace veteran Democratic State Senator Martha Fuller Clark.

John Formella – Roger Wood photo

 

 

 

You can click on the listen arrow below or download link to hear them.

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Secretary of State Bill Gardner Predicts a high voter turnout for this mid-term election, mainly because of the highly contentious races for U.S. Senate and Congress.

 

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Higher Electric Rates? Not Necessarily

Despite some media reports of skyrocketing electricity rates this winter, not all customers are facing the “dire circumstances” that the reports suggest.  One New Hampshire Utility, Unitil, serving parts of the Seacoast and the Concord area, is asking the Public Utilities Commission for a 44 per cent rate increase.

Schiller Station owned by PSNH in Portsmouth, NH – Courtesy PSNH

Another company, Liberty Utilities, which operates in ten states, including New Hampshire and Massachusetts, is the beneficiary of a 47 per cent rate increase from the PUC.  ISO New England which monitors costs of  electricity, cites the increasing usage of natural gas, a predicted cold winter, and the anticipated shutdown of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and already retired Salem Harbor coal-fired plant in Massachusetts.  But, the half million customers served by Public Service Company of New Hampshire, are not expected to face such steep increases.  I spoke to Lauren Collins, at PSNH headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Canaan Hydroelectric Dam – PSNH Photo by Bob Gunderson

In the podcast, you can hear her explain why the charge may potentially only increase 4 cents per kilowatt hour.  Click on the arrow below or download link depending on your device to hear our discussion.

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All electric utilities in the region are asking customers, both residential and business to keep an eye on their bills and conserve electricity whenever possible.

 

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“All girls” political leadership in NH at risk?

If the results from the iconic Federal Cigar Store in Portsmouth, NH hold any credence, the “all girl” hierarchy in New Hampshire’s political leadership could change.

Federal Cigar Store in Portsmouth, NH – Courtesy Photo

Ever since the election of 2012, The state has had a female Governor, Maggie Hassan, two female Senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, and two Congressional members who are women; Carol Shea Porter and Annie Kuster. This election year, besides the two congressional seats up for grabs, is Shaheen’s Senate seat. While some polls have Kuster leading in the second district, the man defeated by Shea Porter, may be on the comeback trail. That’s according to the store’s matchbook poll, which encourages patrons to toss them into paper bags indicating their elective favorite. Co-owner Rick Gadway calls the poll, which has a 30 year history, 80 per cent accurate.

Rick Gadway at Federal Cigar Store poll – Roger Wood photo

If so, one of the nation’s closest watched Senate races could see former U.S. Senator Scott Brown, a republican, unseat Shaheen. The matchbook poll showed Brown defeating Shaheen 53 to 47 per cent, 637 to 564. Also vulnerable, at least according to the informal poll, former Republican Congressman Frank Guinta could defeat Shea-Porter, by a 60 to 40 per cent margin. 574 to 388. Governor Hassan would be safe from defeat by her Republican opponent Walt Havenstein, by a 10 per cent margin, 55 to 45 per cent, or 442-362 votes. The poll didn’t cover the second district. The voting took place at all the store’s locations, Portsmouth, Dover, Epping and Plaistow. Rick Gadway unveiled the results of the matchbook poll at his Portsmouth location.

I spoke to Rick Gadway about the patrons’ interest in the election, in a podcast you can hear by clicking on the listen arrow below or download link depending on your device.

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Federal Cigar is New Hampshire’s oldest continuously operated cigar shop, and has held the matchbook poll since 1984.  This year, some 1200 people placed their matchbook in the “ballot box,”  paper bags with the candidates names on them.  Their website is www.federalcigar.com

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Historic Replica Gundalow Moving to Children’s Museum

There are only two like them in the world today.  They’re both replicas of the historic flat bottomed gundalows that were used to carry bricks, wood, hay  and other cargo up and down the rivers of Southern New Hampshire and Maine.  The originals were used extensively in the centuries before roads connected the major towns and cities.  Their Lateen sails were mounted on masts that could be lowered to pass under bridges and other obstacles.  And they took advantage of the tides to make their way up and down the rivers.  In 1982, the first replica gundalow, The Edward H. Adams was constructed and docked for tours and educational purposes at a dock along the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, NH.

Brenda Johnston, former deck hand on the Adams – Roger Wood photo

It was used once for transporting plywood to an old dilapidated life saving station in Portsmouth Harbor.  The Friends of Wood Island used the wood to board up the decaying building’s windows.  The Adams had no engine, and wasn’t certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, for passengers, but it’s replacement, The Piscataqua, is sail and motor powered, taking student and business groups, along with tourists and other members of the public on sails during the warm months.  Now, the original Gundalow, the Adams, has been decommissioned, to be docked permanently by the New Hampshire Children’s Museum in Dover, NH.  I spoke to Molly Bolster, Executive Director of the Gundalow Company, the non-profit that has been in charge of both vessels.  A video interview follows.

Gundalow Company offices – Roger Wood photo

 

Here’s a short video of the Piscataqua, taking passengers on a short cruise on the river of the same name.

I also spoke to Molly Bolster about the newer gundalow, its success and future.  You can listen to my podcast with her by clicking on the podcast arrow below or download link, depending on your device.

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The headquarters for the Gundalow Company is Marcy Street, adjacent to Prescott Park in Portsmouth.  Their website is www.gundalow.org.

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SPCA: Finding Your Spirit Animal Adopt-a-thon

Every year, thousands of lost, abandoned and unwanted animals find their way into shelters, most waiting for adoption by a new family.  Right now, one could be waiting for you to provide a loving home.  That’s what one of the largest shelters in the region, the New Hampshire Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Stratham, New Hampshire is hoping.

Through October 30th, the NHSPCA, located off Route 33 in Stratham has championed the theme, “Finding Your Spirit Animal, your soul connection.”  This is the ninth Halloween that the shelter is seeking forever homes for a variety of small and larger pets. For the event, the NHSPCA is offering discounts on all animals and items in the gift shop.

Adopt-a-thon poster – Courtesy image

The agency is fully staffed with employees and volunteers to help browsers and serious adopters find the perfect pet.

I also spoke to Jen Corbin Director of Animal Care at the NHSPCA about the animals there, and the success rate of adoptions.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the podcast arrow below or download link, depending on your device.

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The annual Adopt-a-thon is now underway, and potential adopters are being encouraged to download applications from the website www.nhspca.org.  That would potentially speed up the process for them.

“Take me home” – Roger Wood photo

The agency is also looking for specific donated items, including kitten food, canned and dry cat food, kitty litter and towels and blankets for bedding.  Their complete wish list is on the website.

 

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World Class Skaters to Perform at New Ice Rink in Portsmouth, NH

One of New England’s most visited historic attractions, Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth New Hampshire will soon be hosting world class ice skaters at their new outdoor seasonal ice skating rink on the museum grounds.

Concept of Puddle Dock Pond rink in Portsmouth, NH -Courtesy Photo

Joining them will be members of the public when the new rink opens around December 1st. According to a news release from Strawbery Banke, the rink will be professionally maintained.

“The nonprofit community skating venue will be open seven days a week from December through February. There will be public skating, including free community skating, skate rentals, lessons, pickup pond hockey, special events and private rink rentals.  Puddle Dock Pond is the size of a traditional rink, with a unique shape featuring an area where skaters can warm up next to a wood fire and grab a cocoa and something to eat at the White Apron Cafe inside the Visitors Center.  Spectators can view the action from a heated outdoor deck.  The ice surface will be professionally maintained.  The facility will be a temporary structure that is open for three months and then removed.”

Groundbreaking at Puddle Dock Pond Rink – Roger Wood Photo

 

I spoke to Lawrence Yerdon, President and CEO of Strawbery Banke at a recent groundbreaking ceremony, held to celebrate the successful fundraising drive that netted some $487 thousand dollars. That figure surpassed the original goal of $462 thousand dollars the committee decided on.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Jeff Keefe, who co-chaired the rink committee, spoke of the years it took to bring it to fruition.  He also introduced Doug Webster, who talked about the world class skaters he will bring to the facility for performances and skating activities with children.  You can listen to highlights of the ceremony with Keefe and Webster by clicking on the podcast arrow just below or the download link, depending on your device.

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Among the challenges faced by the group was the overcoming of some local opposition of nearby residents in the city’s Sound End.  They expressed concerns over the potential of noise and traffic in the neighborhood.  Ultimately, their concerns were answered, and city boards approved the project, expected to open for this skating season.  The website for the museum is www.strawberybanke.org.


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Iconic Restaurant Sign Restoration Nearing Completion

So many historic signs have deteriorated beyond restoration along the nation’s highways that it’s rare to see one brought back to its original condition.  But that is the case with the well known Yoken’s Restaurant Sign that used to beckon visitors and locals to the sprawling eatery along Route One in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Yoken’s Restaurant Sign in its original condition – Courtesy Photo

For generations, families would journey for miles just to eat there.  Rotary club luncheons, weddings, conventions and other functions took place in their flexible meeting rooms.  That all ended when the owners demolished the building and sold the land.  But the famous Yoken’s, Thar She Blows Sign stood for years, growing older and more decrepit while the lot behind stood empty.  Finally, a group of developers, the 4 Amigos, spearheaded construction of a Rite-Aid Pharmacy, a bank, the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, and a Five Guys Hamburger restaurant.  They call the site Yoken’s Common, and made a decision to commission a restoration of the historic sign.  The group chose Portsmouth Sign Company, now based in a new building in nearby Newington, New Hampshire, to do the work.

Partially Restored Yoken’s Restaurant Sign at Portsmouth Sign Company – Courtesy Photo

As you will see from the short video introduction and hear from the podcast/radio feature, the process has been intense for the crew of the company.  Chip Lawry is project manager, and has been with the company for 11 years.

We talked more about the sign restoration and plans for locating it in the audio podcast which you can hear by clicking on the podcast arrow below or download link depending on your device.

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Chip Lawry says that he’s had many inquiries about the sign including one person who collects information about historic signs that have either disappeared or have undergone restoration.  His company’s website is www.portsmouthsign.com

 

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