Congresswoman Lori Trahan was in Haverhill Wednesday to highlight federal investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to upgrade bridges, water infrastructure, and public transit for Third District residents.
During a half-hour meeting with city and state officials, Trahan talked about how the infrastructure package will enhance efforts to replace the Basiliere Bridge, which the state considers deficient and has targeted for a full replacement beginning in 2024/2025.
She said the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $110 billion in new funding to repair and rebuild roads, bridges, and other major projects nationwide. Massachusetts is set to receive at least $1.1 billion for bridge replacements and repairs over the next five years, which she said is key in addressing the 472 bridges across the state.
“We know there is still a lot of work to be done and fully replacing this bridge isn’t going to be cheap, but with the investments secured in the bipartisan infrastructure law we can say with confidence that it’s going to get done, finally,” she said, adding that a new Basiliere Bridge will have a substantial economic impact on the city.
“It will go far to transform Merrimack Street and reduce traffic congestion, but more importantly it’s going to improve safety,” she said.
State Rep. Andy Vargas said the state has revised its original plan to restore the bridge and is now looking at a full replacement.
“Our goal is to continue to impress upon MassDOT that this isn’t just a traffic and safety concern, but it’s also an emergency services concern,” he said, adding that he informed state transportation officials that certain fire department vehicles are not allowed to cross the bridge because of their weight, causing them to travel through the downtown and cross the Comeau Bridge to reach Bradford.
Trahan also discussed federal investments to stop combined sewage overflows that plague the Merrimack River.
The roundtable discussion took place at UMass Lowell’s iHUB in the Harbor Place commercial building. Participants included Mayor James Fiorentini, state Reps. Andy Vargas, Christina Minicucci and Linda Dean Campbell, City Council members and representatives from the Haverhill Community Development Division, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission and UMass Lowell Innovation Hub.
“I look forward to the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to provide critical funding to improve Haverhill’s roads and sidewalks,” Fiorentini said. “We also hope to use some of this funding to complete our transformative downtown Merrimack Street redevelopment project and we thank Congresswoman Trahan for her support of this legislation and always lobbying for Haverhill.”
The legislation also invests a total of $55 billion to upgrade community water systems and replace lead service lines. Of that funding, Massachusetts will receive at least $1.1 billion over the next half-decade to improve water infrastructure in communities across the state.
“As important as the bridge is, so too is the river that flows beneath it,” Trahan said, noting the state’s allocation of $188 million for this year can be used to fix CSOs, replace lead pipes and clean up PFAS contaminants.
She said communities like Haverhill will also be eligible for additional funding to stop CSOs.
Campbell said there is a collective feeling throughout Merrimack Valley communities as to what projects they want to focus on for use of the federal funding.
“The process is just beginning and we are getting in on the ground floor,” she said.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes $39 billion to modernize public transit and expand accessible public transportation options. Massachusetts is set to receive no less than $2.5 billion to repair and upgrade bus and rail fleets, make stations more accessible, replace older buses with clean, zero emission vehicles, and train transit workers to maintain and operate these new vehicles.
Trahan said these investments will benefit residents in the Third District and beyond who rely on public transportation, many of whom currently spend an extra 53% of their time commuting, on average.
A preliminary breakdown of funding Massachusetts will receive for various initiatives is available at https://tinyurl.com/2yxe7eue.
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