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Calls proposed cuts ‘irresponsible’ in meeting with community leaders

(Portsmouth, N.H.) – Standing with Portsmouth’s Memorial Bridge behind her, U.S.  Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today called efforts to cut funding for the bridge “irresponsible” and vowed to fight to ensure it gets the money it needs for crucial infrastructure improvements.

“These reckless cuts would have damaging effects on our economy and our workforce. Memorial Bridge is important to our shipyard workers and critical to the flow of goods and services between Maine and New Hampshire. Building the new bridge would also create good construction jobs in New Hampshire,” Shaheen said. “And this is not just about the economy. It’s also a matter of public safety. I will continue my fight to see that Memorial Bridge funding is included in the final spending bill.”

In October 2010, Shaheen stood in a similar spot to announce that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation would receive $20 million to replace Memorial Bridge. The award was issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation under its TIGER II program.  However, that money is now in jeopardy because of proposed budget cuts in the House.

Shaheen has consistently emphasized that Memorial Bridge is in desperate need of critical improvements. When Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Shaheen for the grant announcement in Portsmouth last October, he said Memorial Bridge was "probably one of the worst bridges in America."

 “The Memorial Bridge is of vital importance to the economy and transportation systems of both states and this grant funding is vital to the bridge replacement project being able to move forward,” said New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell.

Portsmouth Mayor Thomas Ferrini, local business owner Jay McSharry, and Portsmouth naval Shipyard Metal Trades Council President Paul O’Connor also spoke about the effects that an elimination of funds would have on the community.

 “The Memorial Bridge is an important piece of our economic infrastructure. We need the new bridge so that our small businesses will continue to thrive.  We are grateful in Portsmouth that Senator Shaheen has the economic interests of the Seacoast on the front burner,” said Portsmouth Mayor Thomas Ferrini.

“When the bridge has closed in the past, we have seen a dramatic difference in our sales. They can be off by as much as 20 percent, and this can have an impact on staffing levels and puts jobs at risk,” said Jay McSharry, who owns four New Hampshire restaurants.

““We cannot continue to cut funding for America’s infrastructure. We appreciate Senator Shaheen’s efforts to maintain funding for the Memorial Bridge. It is a critical link to our shipyard and we must ensure funds are maintained for the replacement of the bridge,” said Paul O’Connor, President of the Metal Trades Council at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.