When we have an opportunity to advance our number one priority--safety--and honor our veterans at the same time, that's something to celebrate. And yesterday, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon for a bridge that is safer than its predecessor and that continues to honor America's heroes.
Between Portland and South Portland,Maine, Veterans Memorial Bridge has connected people, goods, and communities since 1954. Recently, it has been carrying 22,000 vehicles a day over the Fore River. This flow of car and truck traffic is tremendously important to Maine because it links two significant population centers that have busy commercial and industrial districts and waterfronts.
However, in recent years, the 60-year-old bridge showed signs of structural deterioration. "We were just holding it together, waiting for the funding," said Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt.
The project is a striking example of what President Obama means when he talks about forging an America that’s built to last. The new, 1,600-foot bridge offers far more than an improvement in safety; it also features plazas at both ends and scenic overlooks. It includes a twelve-foot wide dedicated path for walkers and bicyclists that is separated from vehicle traffic. And, while the old crossing lasted six decades, the new structure is designed to handle a full century of use.
For the past two years, building a replacement for the existing bridge has also created more than 100 good jobs for the people of Maine.
- A safe connection for people and commerce between two great cities;
- A safe route for walkers and bike riders; and
- A dramatic presence on the landscape.
The iconic new bridge was also completed on time and under budget thanks to innovative approaches to contracting and construction.
And Administrator Mendez took note: "Well done, Maine! You’ve not only delivered a wonderful bridge, but delivered it ahead of schedule thanks to using the Design-Build contracting method."
With Design-Build, a single contractor is hired to manage the architecture and engineering phase as well as the construction phase of a project; this streamlines project coordination and eliminates many administrative delays. Through the FHWA's Every Day Counts initiative, we’re trying to encourage other states to follow Maine’s example--where appropriate--of using Design-Build and precast concrete sections, so we can deliver projects to the public across the country sooner.
(left to right) FHWA Administrator Mendez, Maine First Lady Ann LePage, World War II veteran Bill Gardner, Chad Burke who just returned from Afghanistan, Tuskegee Airman James Sheppard, and Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt
The new Veterans Memorial Bridge also continues to offer a wonderful tribute to the sacrifice of the men and women of Maine who have served our nation in armed conflict, many of whom attended yesterday's dedication.
As Maine First Lady Ann LePage said, "Let this bridge be a symbol of your strength, your dedication and your fortitude."
Administrator Mendez and I couldn't agree more. As we celebrate our nation’s independence next week, I hope we’ll keep in mind the men and women who have defended our freedom each and every day for more than 230 years.