Unknown Railroad Bridge Replacement Nearly Disrupts Plans for 290-Unit Bradford Project

Original Procopio Companies’ public park rendering provided to the Haverhill Conservation Commission.

Plans to improve automotive and pedestrian traffic in the area of a planned 290-unit apartment complex in Bradford known as “The Beck” recently ran into a speed bump that officials said this week can be ironed out.

Plans to improve the complex intersection of South Elm Street, Railroad Avenue and Comeau Bridge ran into previously unknown plans to rebuild the overhead railroad bridge at the same time and location and, possibly, in conflict with reconstruction of the Basiliere Bridge downriver. The improved intersection, financed by a nearly $2 million state MassWorks grant, was considered critical in the project receiving enough Council support last year.

Community Development Division Director Andrew K. Herlihy told city councilors the MBTA allocated money for replacing the 114-year-old railroad bridge during 2024 and 2025, the same time slated for traffic improvement work and construction by the Procopio Companies. Worse, he said, the new bridge would be prefabricated and likely assembled on the planned city park at the site.

“This means after we’ve done all the traffic improvements, put in the traffic signals, done all the sidewalk, all that stuff, the T would come in there, essentially destroy all that stuff and then have to do it all over again as part of this bridge project. Strike three, this work could potentially collide with the schedule for the Basiliere Bridge project,” he told councilors.

Herlihy said the good news is the legislature found the money for the MBTA to move the replacement railroad bridge project up and have it fully completed before the Basiliere Bridge project begins. All of the players plan to meet Monday to coordinate plans.

Councilor Melinda E. Barrett, who cited traffic concerns in her earlier opposition to the Procopio project, said she saw hope the new railroad bridge could help ease automobile traffic.

“Too bad you couldn’t tell us that they were going to expand that bridge abutment because that would make it much more palatable,” she said.

Barrett explained widening the street in between the two existing abutments would ease congestion by allowing for a turning lane onto the Comeau Bridge. While Herlihy said he can ask, he said he believes the existing bridge abutments are to remain.

The construction coordination discussion came as councilors were asked to give permission to Mayor James J. Fiorentini to negotiate temporary property tax relief with Procopio and fix a boundary line necessary for state tax approval. The developer, in exchange, agreed to set aside 10 apartments as affordable.

Councilor Michael S. McGonagle expressed concern about the mayor not revealing in advance how much money he would offer in tax relief.

“I realize there are a lot of moving parts here and a lot left before we get to the point where…but this sounds like a cluster,” he said.

Councilors supported moving the housing boundary down Railroad Avenue with Barrett and Councilor Shaun P. Toohey opposed and Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua abstaining because he serves on the state aboard that grants tax relief.

On the question of property tax relief, Councilor John A. Michitson joined Barrett and Toohey in opposition and Bevilacqua abstained.

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