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Memorial Bridge Replacement

CHALLENGE: The Memorial Bridge is an important link between Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, NH.  During the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study, it was determined that the aging bridge would need to be replaced. While it is one of three bridges crossing the Piscataqua River between the two municipalities, the Memorial Bridge is the only one that also carries bike and pedestrian traffic and it is relied upon by area bicyclists and pedestrians for commuting as well as pedestrian uses. This makes it a cherished and important part of day-to-day life in both communities.  The bridge was closed for safety reasons in 2011, and the contractor, Archer Western Contractors, was chosen in part for their ability to expedite the construction schedule. All eyes of the community were on the bridge during the construction process, with unprecedented media interest in every detail of the process and timing. Morris was hired to represent the contractor for media and some public outreach activities.

STRATEGY: Three separate entities participated in the media and outreach work for this project: Morris, a firm hired by NHDOT to handle the significant amount of public outreach required for historic mitigation purposes, and NHDOT public information staff. The potential pitfalls of three different media spokespeople talking with multiple media who were eager to find constant storylines was clear to all. The three worked closely together to make sure facts were consistent and the media was not able to play one off against the others. Morris handled media from the contractor’s perspective, providing regular construction updates and fielding media and public calls when unexpected events occurred. Hundreds of people lined the river on a regular basis to view critical events such as the float-out of the old bridge and the float-in of the three new spans. Morris also made sure abutters, who were the target of much noise and disruption, got special updates and a direct line to ask questions – and sometimes just vent. Morris also worked with the two other PR entities to put together on very short notice an opening celebration attended by thousands of excited and happy residents.

RESULTS: The bridge was opened to traffic in August 2013 among much fanfare and positive press.(Portsmouth Herald archive of coverage, Portland Press Herald article, Foster's Daily Democrat articles: 1, 2, 3, 4).


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