Meredith Center Road Bridge

Meredith Center Bridge remains one lane traffic during construction. The project is expected to take months longer than engineers originally planned. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

MEREDITH — The repair project that backs up traffic at a busy Meredith Center Road bridge will take five months longer than expected and won’t be done until Thanksgiving, state officials said Monday.

The bridge, which is near the Wicwas Grange building and Sirles Road, was built in 1937 and carries 3,800 vehicles per day on a major route from New Hampshire Route 104 to Laconia. It is on the state’s “red list” of bridges needing significant work.

Temporary stop lights are in use to allow traffic to share the single lane that remains open on the two-lane road.

Andy Hall, of the department’s bridge maintenance bureau, said the work, which began in the frozen conditions of January, proved more involved and time-consuming than planned.

“We did more substructure work than anticipated and doing it in the winter took longer,” he said. “We had a small crew and several times we had people out due to sickness and whatever else.”

Part of the project involves replacing the beams, which were encased in concrete. Asbestos was originally used beneath beams on the New Hampton side of the project in a system designed to allow the bridge to expand and contract with weather conditions.

A contractor removed the asbestos.

“We were a little at their mercy in terms of schedules,” Hall said.

Teflon bearings, instead of asbestos, will be used to allow minor movement in the reconstructed bridge.

Once the bridge is restored, it should easily last beyond the lifetime of those now working on the project. 

“That bridge there made it over 80 years, and now we are using better material that should last longer,” he said.

The new beams will not be painted but will have a patina coating of rust that serves to inhibit further rust formation and protect the steel. Rebar will have chromium content providing enhanced protection against corrosion.

The original estimated cost of the project was about $500,000. Steve Johnson, administrator for the state's bridge maintenance bureau, said Tuesday he didn't have an updated cost estimate for the project.  

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