State releases list of 146 bridge projects | News

The Rourke Bridge over the Merrimack River in Lowell was designed as a temporary span when it was installed nearly 40 years ago.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan, D-Westford, recalls driving carefully on it in her father’s van when she first got her license, and said that as a training adult for road races she “would sprint across the bridge because I looked at the chain link – covered walkway and it instantly looked like a death trap.”

The two-lane bridge is essential for major regional employers like the University of Massachusetts and Lowell General Hospital, UMass President Marty Meehan said, but crossing it is difficult for ambulances heading to the emergency room. .

The Rourke Bridge, Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday, “is in some ways the perfect project and the perfect place to kick off what we expect and plan to be an enormous amount of activity over the next 10 or 12 months.”

At a UMass Lowell building not far from the bridge in question, Baker said a $170 million project to replace the existing temporary link with an expanded, permanent bridge is part of a plan to invest $3 billion. in bridges across Massachusetts over the next five years. .

The Baker administration has released an initial slate of 146 bridge repair projects — involving 181 individual structures — in preparation for the $3 billion program, which will use a combination of money from the President’s signed Infrastructure Act. Biden last November and $1.25 billion from a next-generation bridge. program in last year’s transportation bond bill.

Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said the administration will introduce new carriage requirement legislation “in the coming weeks.”

Counting both new and reauthorized funding, Baker said Massachusetts expects to receive about $9.5 billion through federal law over the next five years — a period that will stretch well beyond Baker’s last term and deep into his successor’s administration.

According to Baker’s office, this pool of money includes $5.4 billion in formula funds for highways, $2.2 billion in formula funds for MBTA, $591 million in formula funds for regional authorities and $1.4 billion in formula-based and discretionary funding for environmental work.

“For those of us in the infrastructure business, today is like Christmas,” highways administrator Jonathan Gulliver said. “We have been waiting for this for a very long time and whether it is a bridge replacement, a drinking water project or the remediation of a brownfield site, this law will affect every corner of the Commonwealth over the course of for the next five years.”

Massachusetts Construction Industries said Wednesday it sent a letter to Senate Speaker Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano calling on the state to prioritize bridge repairs.

CIM executive director John Pourbaix said in the letter that Massachusetts has “substantial infrastructure funding” thanks to federal law, last session’s $16 billion bond and programs. federal pandemic relief.

“An aggressive bridge program — like the accelerated bridge program several years ago — needs to be prioritized,” he wrote. “Every community across the Commonwealth has bridges that need repair and/or rebuilding. Addressing a handful of bridges across the state piecemeal won’t get us out of federal punishment or keep the public safe. Our bridges must be a priority.

Thursday’s event in Lowell was punctuated by expressions of gratitude to city, state and federal officials for their efforts on the Rourke Bridge, including applause for Trahan, a Westford Democrat who qualified her vote for the “easiest voting” infrastructure package. since his election in 2018.

Trahan, who ran unopposed in 2020, has a challenger this cycle in Fitchburg Republican Dean Tran, a former state senator. Tran, who kicked off his campaign with an event Wednesday night, said he is “showing up to give voters an alternative to the status quo, big government and broken promises and tax policies of the Washington Democrats.”

Drawing laughs and applause, Baker described Trahan as “let’s just say, aggressive, and not just on this process, but on many other issues that involve her congressional district as well.”

Polito, who like Baker is a Republican, said Trahan is “obviously a very effective voice in Washington.”

“What I love about Congresswoman Trahan is that she is grounded in her community and is effective in Washington because she understands the priorities and needs of people here at home,” Polito said. .

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