The Braga in Fall River’s Braga Bridge
If I had a nickel for every time I've crossed the Braga Bridge, I'd probably be a wealthy man by now. Yet I really never knew much about the bridge - until now.
The Braga is one of those things we take for granted and never really think about where it came from or how it got its name.
The Braga Bridge – often called the "Portuguese Slide" by locals – is actually the Charles M. Braga, Jr. Memorial Bridge. Both the bridge and its namesake have histories.
Let's start with the bridge.
The Braga Bridge is a truss bridge that connects Fall River and Somerset via I-195. The span is a mile long, making it one of the longest bridges in Massachusetts. The Braga crosses the Taunton River, near the mouth of the Quequechan River at the confluence of Mount Hope Bay.
In the 1950s, the bridge was proposed further to the north, but the decision to run I-195 through the region convinced planners to construct the bridge in its current location.
To accommodate that location, the Quequechan River falls, for which Fall River was named, were literally buried in tunnels that feed into the Taunton River.
In other words, they moved rivers to make the bridge location work.
The Charles M. Braga, Jr. Memorial Bridge opened to motor vehicle traffic on April 15, 1966.
So who was Charles M. Braga, Jr., and why did they name a bridge after him?
A 22-year-old Navy Yeoman 2nd Class, Charles "Charlie" Braga, Jr. of Fall River was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Braga was stationed on the USS Pennsylvania, which came under heavy fire from the enemy.
The Pennsylvania lost 15 men in the attack, including Braga. Fourteen others were injured and 38 went missing.
The crew fought valiantly to save the ship and despite suffering some damage Pennsylvania survived to fight another day.