Travelers were met with an unexpected traffic jam and detour on August 28 and quickly took to social media, documenting the stalemate I-93 faced for around eight hours. Some posted that it took 10 minutes to travel less than a mile on the detour through town, and others described it as a “parking lot” for at least a few miles.
At around 1:40 p.m., all lanes on Interstate 93 South were closed due to concrete falling from the New Hampshire Route 102 bridge suspended over the highway. This bridge was built in 1962, but was red-listed in 2015, meaning it was deemed that it needed to be replaced and is currently being worked on, with a replacement scheduled to be complete in 2018.
According to officials, a piece of concrete fell from the bridge, breaking into pieces on the highway that were run over by multiple vehicles and posed a hazard to drivers. The New Hampshire State Police said that only one vehicle sustained any damage – a piece of concrete hit the hood of their car, but no one was hurt.
While the debris was cleared up immediately, the highway was closed to allow an inspection of the bridge. It was found that the bridge was safe and that the piece of concrete that fell was simply cosmetic and not an essential or structural part of the bridge.
New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton said to a reporter for WMUR, “The is not a structural component of the bridge – more of a cosmetic piece underneath the bridge near a beam. There were many bridges of that era that had similar type construction, so we’re taking a closer look at those bridges across the state.”
Before the lanes reopened, nets were put in place beneath the bridge to catch any debris that might fall.
While the bridge was being inspected, traffic was detoured off Exit 5 and onto Route 28 and Route 128, though traffic was backed up well before Exit 5. Instead of a quick detour, drivers were met with even more traffic due to a motor vehicle accident on Gilcreast Road by St. Mary’s Bank.
At around 4:30 p.m., there was a car fire on the corner of Gilcreast Road and Route 102 with no injuries, but the fire department involvement caused traffic to stall. In order to stop the fire, the combination tool, otherwise known as the “Jaws of Life,” had to be used to break open the vehicle’s engine compartment. Once the fire was stopped, the vehicle was removed and the firefighters and police officers cleared the scene and returned the flow of traffic.
Now that traffic flow is back to normal and the 102 bridge is deemed safe, the Department of Transportation will begin inspecting other bridges, about 75 total, that were made in the same time period as the 102 bridge.
The cosmetic feature that failed and caused the concrete to fall has not been used on New Hampshire bridges for the past 15 years, according to officials, so any bridges built after that point should not pose the same risk.