KITTERY – The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge that connects Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H., reopened to motor vehicle traffic on Monday, about six weeks after a tanker struck the span and damaged four of its beams.

The 470-foot tanker, the MS Harbour Feature, went adrift from its mooring in the Piscataqua River on April 2 and came to rest against the bridge, which carries an estimated 14,000 vehicles every day along the Route 1 Bypass.

The bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced in 2015, is jointly owned by the Maine and New Hampshire departments of transportation. Its $160-million replacement is set to begin next year.
Although the tanker was damaged, the U.S. Coast Guard has said no fuel spilled into the river as a result of the accident.

“We were ready for the worst case and had teams ready, but thankfully we didn’t need that,” Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Nick Barrow said at the time.

Tugboats helped to move the vessel away from the bridge a few hours later between high and low tides, but the two states decided to close the bridge to assess any structural damage.

Final cost estimates were not immediately available  Monday, but the New Hampshire and Maine departments of transportation have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Harbour Feature tanker to obtain nearly $2.5 million in damages.

Court documents allege that the Harbour Feature’s crew failed to properly secure the vessel at the New Hampshire State Pier before it broke loose from its moorings.

While the bridge was closed, the Interstate 95 bridge was the only route across the Piscataqua River.

The tanker accident was the latest transportation glitch for the Kittery and Portsmouth communities. Earlier this year, the lift span of the Sarah Long bridge became stuck, snarling marine traffic.

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