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First round of bridge repair program funding announced for Massachusetts

Armory_street_bridge.jpg
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
Using a decaying bridge that carries Armory Street over a set of railroad tracks in Springfield as a backdrop, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA1) highlighted the money Massachusetts will receive under a program created in the bipartisan infrastructure law to repair or replace bridges. With Neal are Springfield DPW Director Chris Cignoli ( on left) and Mayor Domenic Sarno.

Federal money should cover fixes for almost 500 crumbling bridges in the state

More than $1 billion will be coming to Massachusetts from the federal government over the next few years for bridge replacement and repair projects.

Massachusetts’ share of a $27.5 billion bridge program created by the bi-partisan infrastructure law works out to just over $225 million this year and $1.1 billion over the next five years – enough to repair or replace hundreds of crumbling bridges across the state, said Congressman Richard Neal.

“As we look at these projects, they are also going to jump start parts of the economy,” Neal said. “These are all worthwhile investments that have been postponed for a long long period of time. Time to get on with it.”

Nine percent of Massachusetts bridges – almost 500 – are currently classified as structurally deficient.

Neal, the Springfield Democrat who chairs the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means, highlighted the available funding at a press conference with a decaying bridge on Armory Street in Springfield as a backdrop.

“This is a much-needed investment in the nation’s infrastructure understanding the ease with which we travel from one point to another not only increases productivity and greater efficiency but it is also estimated that over this ten year period this expenditure will increase GDP by one percent,” said Neal.

In addition to funding for bridge work that Massachusetts will receive over the next five years under a formula announced by the Federal Highway Administration, there is an additional $12.5 billion available to provide competitive grants.

“That will, I think, highlight the terrific role the city does and other cities in the First Congressional District do to lay out their priorities,” Neal said.

The federal funding is vital as Springfield looks to address its infrastructure needs, said Mayor Domenic Sarno.

“Infrastructure many of times is forgotten about and it is usually dealt with after the fact when something negative has happened,” Sarno said.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has the Armory Street bridge project on its list of planned transportation improvements. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for February 1st.

The project would replace two bridges – one that carries Armory Street over an active set of railroad tracks and the other over an abandoned rail bed a few hundred yards away, according to the city’s DPW Director Chris Cignoli.

“These two railroad bridges are over 100 years old. Structurally, they are not holding up and will be completely replaced,” Cignoli said.

The project has an estimated price tag of $40 million, said Cignoli.

Armory Street is a major commuter route. The bridges slated for replacement are less than a half-mile from an interchange with I-291.

Members of the state’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation have pointed to the federal bridge program as a possible source to pay for the replacement of the Cape Cod Canal bridges – a massive project with an estimated price tag of $2.2 billion.

Neal said he supports the project.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.