BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — The Baker administration wants to start a new “Small Bridge Program” that focuses on repairing municipally-owned bridges less than twenty-feet in length. These bridges don’t qualify for federal funding because of their size, and many rural towns can’t afford fix them.
State Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin said, “Anyone of these bridges could be around $100,000 to $120,000, and maybe even equal to that amount in the engineering of it. Some municipalities, especially in the western part of the state – that would eat up their entire Chapter 90 allotment.”
The “Small Bridge Program” would cost taxpayers a total of $50-million, $10-million per year for five years.
Cities and towns have to apply for the program, and projects would be chosen based on financial need. Many of these smaller bridges have fallen into disrepair, and are reaching the point where they can no longer handle the weight of the traffic. A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Municipal Association explains why it’s critical that these bridges remain open.
“It’s not only an inconvenience, but it can also be a problem for public safety such as public safety vehicles, ambulances, and police having to take alternative routes,” said Victoria Sclafani.
House lawmakers approved funding for the “Small Bridge Program” about two weeks ago. The Senate has yet to take it up.
Many of these small bridge repairs are on hold, and the longer they wait — the more expensive these projects become.