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By Kelly Sullivan
By Kelly Sullivan
FALL RIVER – The last of the “Mega Projects”in Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s Accelerated Bridge Program got under way Friday as Patrick, Mass. Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey and assorted local officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony in the shadow of the Braga Bridge and the so-called “spaghetti ramps” of Interstate 195 and Route 79 on Friday. The $197 million project to reconstruct the intersection of the two highways has been designed to increase safety for pedestrians and drivers, improve access to the waterfront and Davol Street, and inject an economic stimulus into the regions.
Patrick’s $3 billion statewide bridge rehabilitation program has been able to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in Massachusetts since 2008 from 543 to 436, with another 38 bridge projects under construction and 22 more scheduled to begin work with the next year. The eight-year program is expected to repair or place more than 200 bridges during its lifetime.
The Fall River project, for which planning began in January 2010, according to the MassDOT website, is one of the five largest projects in the Patrick administration’s bridge program. The others are:
“While this is a major opportunity to fix what we have, it’s also a chance to incorporate new thinking into how we can provide more and better accommodations for new needs like walking and cycling,” said Davey in prepared remarks. “But moreover, this job is a recognition of the positive impacts transportation projects can have on the economy, when we think broadly about what we want out of the finished product and when we’re smart about what we build.”
In addition to expected creation of 300 construction jobs, the project will have an aesthetic benefit for the city. “As you are traveling in and out of Fall River among bridge buttresses, ramps and decaying structures that don’t look safe, that reflects poorly on the image of the city,” Fall River Office of Economic Development Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola Jr. said last year in an interview with Providence Business News. “Removing the dilapidated bridge will help with curb appeal.”
In June, the MassDot Board of Directors authorized a joint design-build contract for Barletta Heavy Division and O&G Industries Inc. The reconstruction is expected to be finished in the fall of 2016.