New Bedford City Council Approves $21 Million Pedestrian Bridge
WBSM—The New Bedford City Council gave the go ahead for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to build a $21 million pedestrian bridge over Route 18.
The council voted 6-4 Thursday night to approve a memorandum between the City of New Bedford and the MBTA that would see the construction of a bridge from Purchase Street to the new commuter rail station currently under construction.
The bridge would span over John F. Kennedy Boulevard (Rte. 18) and provide a pathway for pedestrians. According to the memorandum, the $21 million will be provided by the MBTA while the City of New Bedford pays nothing in exchange.
Ward 5 Councilor Scott J. Lima, City Council President Linda Morad and City Councilors at Large Shane Burgo and Brian K. Gomes voted against the adoption, citing additional concerns they had with the bridge’s structure.
Burgo also said that he felt New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s administration gave the council too little of a deadline to pass the memorandum.
“For me, I don’t mind the bridge,” Burgo said. “This administration is constantly sending us stuff, essentially putting a gun to our heads to say if you don’t approve something by a certain day it's going to screw it all up. I just felt it was necessary.”
Before the vote, Gomes and Lima offered a motion to delay the approval and call for a special city council meeting to review the concerns. The motion failed 5-5, with Burgo, Lima, Gomes, Morad, and City Councilor at Large Naomi R.A. Carney voting yes for the session.
Carney said she changed her vote in the second motion after realizing there were not enough votes to approve a special session.
After the vote, Lima called into WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight to say he wanted to be consistent in his vote and that he was not against the bridge's construction.
"This was not a vote against the bridge," Lima said. "I want an opportunity to speak about it next week. I was consistent in my vote."
Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira, who voted to approve the memorandum, said he acknowledged concerns that his colleagues have but said he voted in favor because of the opportunity to build the bridge without paying a significant sum.
“I understand where my colleagues are coming from,” Pereria said at the meeting. “I think the final payment by the state outweighs this.”
The funding for the bridge was a component of South Coast Rail — a project by the MBTA expanding commuter rail service from Boston to SouthCoast cities such as Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford. Phase 1, scheduled to finish this year, will result in the opening of rail lines to Fall River and New Bedford.
Ward 1 Councilor Brad Markey said he was excited to see South Coast Rail finished and the bridge built. He said for those entering New Bedford on Rte. 18, it would be the first thing they would see — a symbol of the city’s progress.
“It’s going to be the highlight of coming into the city,” Markey said. “We’re going to have a bridge anyway, so why not have one for the city.”