Local, state and federal officials were on hand Thursday for the formal delivery of a $7.6 million grant to replace the railroad overpass at South Elm Street.
As only WHAV reported Aug. 19, the money comes from a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal-State Partnership Grant and earmarked to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. The bridge is used by Amtrak’s Downeaster service and the MBTA’s commuter rail service between Boston and Haverhill. State Rep. Christina A. Minicucci hailed federal backing for the project.
“As we all know, the infrastructure in Massachusetts is very far behind and, really, it needs a facelift plus a little bit and it takes federal dollars, really, at this point for us to be able to get our public transportation up to a level where people can rely on it to get to work or to go on vacation in Maine. And, that’s the beauty about Haverhill, we’re right in the middle,” she said.
Congresswoman Lori Trahan said repairing the century-old bridge is important to Haverhill because of its role in bringing students, workers and residents into Boston, Maine and other locations on the commuter rail line.
While the construction dates are still unknown, Trahan did say the project will cause minimal traffic disruptions to the street below and the bridge would close only for one weekend while its replacement is put in place.
As only WHAV reported July 14, Community Development Director Andrew K. Herlihy explained how the fast pace will be accomplished.
“Instead, what is going to happen, the MBTA is going to construct the bridge on an overhead platform. Two lanes of traffic will be passing through underneath all the time and, at least, one sidewalk available at all times, and they will construct this bridge over the next year,” he explained.
City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua also mentioned rising gas prices as another reason why residents seek reliable trains as an alternative to driving themselves.
“It’s very important for the economic wellbeing of our city obviously and it’s very important for people that work here to be able to get here,” Bevilacqua said. “We have people going both ways but at the same time. For those that are working in the Boston area to be able to take the train and the bus system throughout the Merrimack Valley region, that is very, very important because, as you know, the cost of gas is outrageous. If we can utilize public transportation, we want to do that, and I want to commend Congresswoman Trahan for that,” he said.
Besides Minicucci, Trahan and Bevilacqua, others participating in the ceremony Thursday morning at Haverhill MBTA station parking lot were Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini; state Reps. Andy X. Vargas and Lenny Mirra, Sen. Barry R. Finegold, incoming state Rep. Ryan Hamilton and Congressman Ed Markey’s spokesperson David Quiroa.
The money is part of the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program which received $200 million as part of a recent government package.