Funding likely for second round of Route 18 improvements

NEW BEDFORD — The House of Representatives has approved $3 million for a second phase of Route 18 improvements designed to connect the South End to the waterfront.
“It’s always been my feeling we need to go beyond the downtown,” said Rep. Antonio Cabral, who proposed the funding as chairman of the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. “I think it’s an issue of equity for that neighborhood.”
The $3 million would extend the Route 18 changes, which allow for more trees and more pedestrian crossings, south of Walnut Street, Cabral said. The city has already started to hold neighborhood meetings about the plans, he said.
The money is part of a $1.5 billion statewide Transportation Bond Bill, which also includes $2.5 million slated for redeveloped access to the South Terminal, where the city hopes to build a staging area for the offshore wind industry.
Senate approval of the bill is pending.
“We are anxious to take it up,” said Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, who first earmarked money toward Route 18 development more than a decade ago and said he would support this bill, as well. “This is not a road project to me. It’s a tourism and economic development project.”
Construction on the current $10.6 million Route 18 project, which is designed to knit together the downtown and the waterfront, began in April 2011 and is expected to finish in the next few months. “Right now it just looks like an ugly construction project, but it ties in an underutilized waterfront that is not accessible to the tourist and consumer and ties it into (downtown), a place that has become a thriving arts and cultural renaissance,” Montigny said.
Federal funds provided 80 percent of the money for the original project. The state also contributed $3 million to Phase I, Cabral said.
By NATALIE SHERMAN
nsherman@s-t.com
June 22, 2012 12:00 AM
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120622/NEWS/206220334/-1/NEWS10

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