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WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) today announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has obligated $20 million in funding for the replacement of the Memorial Bridge between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine. Senators Snowe, Collins, and Shaheen joined forces last Congress to fight for the bridge funding and were successful in helping secure a Tiger II grant.  But with that funding jeopardized by proposed budget cuts, the bipartisan group of New England Senators, now joined by Senator Ayotte, has been working to secure the project through quick obligation of the funds.

Over the past few months, the Senators have worked tirelessly to see that the bridge received the award—first, by urging the Transportation Department to select the bridge’s application during the competitive Tiger II grant process in early fall 2010, and later by advocating for the funds’ expedited release once they became threatened by proposed federal spending legislation.  Throughout the process, the Senators have worked closely with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (who visited the bridge in October to announce the award personally), and are grateful to him for his efforts to ensure the funds’ obligation. 

“This long-awaited obligation of funding will ensure the safety and efficiency of a critical transportation link between Maine and New Hampshire,” said Senator Snowe.  “I am grateful the U.S. Department of Transportation fulfilled its commitment to the Memorial Bridge project in a timely fashion and that completion of this bridge overhaul was not jeopardized by ongoing budget debates in Washington.”

“I am delighted by today’s announcement that this critical $20 million will be preserved that will help to rehabilitate a vital link for our states’ businesses and people,” said Senator Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.  “The replacement of the Memorial Bridge is crucial to the flow of goods, services, and people between Maine and New Hampshire, and for keeping and attracting new jobs to this region.  I appreciate Secretary LaHood’s working so closely with me and my colleagues to expedite the process to guarantee this funding.”

“As the commercial artery between New Hampshire and Maine on the Seacoast, a strong, safe Memorial Bridge is critical to the regional economy and will benefit residents on both sides of the river,” said Senator Shaheen.  “Memorial Bridge is important to our shipyard workers and both states will also enjoy good construction jobs that building the new bridge will create.  I’m thankful to Secretary LaHood for his work on this, and also to my colleagues in both states for theirs.”

“Having been called ‘one of the worst bridges in America,’ I am pleased that paperwork issues have been resolved allowing this project to move forward,” said Senator Ayotte.  “New Hampshire and Maine have already made a serious commitment to replacing Memorial Bridge, and I am glad that DOT followed through on its commitment.”