Mass. Governor Signs $3 Billion Bridge Repair Bill

Fri August 15, 2008 - Northeast Edition
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BOSTON (AP) Up to 300 of the state’s most neglected bridges will get needed repairs under a bill signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Aug. 4.

The bill authorizes the state to borrow nearly $3 billion for the fixes. The eight-year plan focuses on bridges in most urgent need of repair. Patrick said the work will also create thousands of engineering and construction jobs.

There are 543 structurally deficient bridges owned by MassHighway and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. At current funding levels for repairs, that number would grow to almost 700 in the next eight years, a 30 percent increase.

With the added spending, the number should drop by about 15 percent instead, according to the administration.

Patrick said that will end up saving the state an estimated $1.5 billion in avoided inflation and deferred maintenance costs.

“By investing today, we will complete more bridge projects in less time and at a lower cost,’’ Patrick said.

Bridges targeted for repairs include the Longfellow Bridge over the Charles River in Boston, the Fore River Bridge in Quincy, the Whittier Bridge in Amesbury and the I-91 Bridge in Holyoke.

Patrick signed the bill on the Esplanade in Boston near the Longfellow Bridge.

Some of the bridges that will be repaired first are not considered structurally deficient now, but without maintenance would quickly fall into the category, and would cost more to repair at that point.

State highway officials estimate that the cost of repairing or replacing a structurally deficient bridge is at least twice the cost of conducting preventative maintenance work before a bridge deteriorates.

The accelerated bridge repair plan will be financed using $1.1 billion in so-called “grant anticipation notes,’’ which borrow against anticipated future federal funding.

It also taps $1.9 billion in gas tax bonds to be repaid with existing gas tax revenues.

The bridge repair program was spurred in part by last year’s collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis.

The bridge plummeted 60 ft. into the Mississippi River killing 13 people and injuring 145.

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