By Simón Rios
Posted Nov. 25, 2014 @ 2:00 am
NEW BEDFORD — With just over a month left in office, Gov. Deval Patrick Monday announced a contract award for the replacement of four bridges in New Bedford and Fall River.
“You’re right on the threshold,” Patrick told The Standard-Times.
“And I want to ride that first train.”
The $42 million project to replace three Fall River bridges and the Wamsutta Bridge in New Bedford was awarded to Cardi Corporation. A separate MBTA contract for $18.4 million to upgrade five grade crossings, located on Dean Street in Taunton; Copicut Road, Elm and High streets in Freetown; and Nash Road in New Bedford. That contract went to LM Heavy Civil Construction.
Patrick’s announcement is his administration’s latest step toward completing the long awaited rebuild of commuter rail to the area. That includes work already done at the bridges over Deane, Sawyer and Coggeshall Streets in New Bedford, which were repaired to make way for South Coast Rail.
Estimated at $2.3 billion, a transportation bond bill this year secured funding for the project. But the spending depends on who sits in the corner office, and in January that will be Charlie Baker. Baker opposed South Coast Rail during his run against Patrick in 2010, but changed his mind the second time around.
Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said the governor-elect looks forward to working with officials on the SouthCoast to make a rail link to New Bedford and Fall River a reality.
“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction for the project that the Governor-elect hopes will also improve freight operations in the short term,” Buckley said in a statement.
Jean Fox, South Coast Rail project manager for Mass DOT, said that so much has been invested in the project that “it doesn’t make sense at this point to back down. … That is not likely to happen.”
Currently in use for freight, Fox said the bridges have “outlived most of their usefulness,” requiring trains to travel gingerly while crossing them.
Fox also said the Wamsutta Street bridge will accommodate trucks that currently can’t make it through.
One business that uses freight out of the city is Sid Wainer & Son, the upscale food seller that moved its headquarters to Purchase Street in 1973. Owner Henry Wainer said the company operates a “siding” along the tracks, where trains can back up and unload. He said he’s expecting for the upgrades to interrupt that operation for three to six months.
“Down the road it’ll be for the betterment,” Wainer said.
“I’m so pleased that New Bedford is going to have an opportunity to get something new happening, which is better access of freight in and out of the state. … It’s nice to see some of our tax dollars coming back to New Bedford.”
Nearing the end of his eight years in office, some say South Coast Rail is a part of Patrick’s legacy. Patrick said he’s “a little awkward with the legacy question.” But he said he wants to be remembered as having governed for the whole state, not just certain regions, and not just the well connected.
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By Simón Rios