Sometimes the closing of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge to allow marine traffic to pass through catches me by surprise, and I wind up fussing and fuming about it. Other times I enjoy getting caught up at the bridge. On a warm sunny day, watching recreational and fishing vessels pass through the open bridge can be relaxing and a nice break from an otherwise hectic day.

Then there are times when the bridge gets stuck or the hydraulic system malfunctions, and the span has to remain closed to motor vehicle traffic for extended periods so that boats can pass through while the thing is being fixed. That's exactly what happened on Friday.

Many times, parts are not simply available due to the bridge's age. Those are the not-so-good times.

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Historic and Wikipedia say construction of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge began in 1897, and t was finished two years later in 1899.

New Bedford Public Library via Public Domain
New Bedford Public Library via Public Domain

The bridge is one of four that cross the Acushnet River. The Wood Street Bridge connects New Bedford and Acushnet, while the Coggeshall Street Bridge, I-195, and the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge (Route 6) connect New Bedford and Fairhaven. When one is down, the others pick up the slack.

The "bridge" consists of three spans that carry traffic over the river between the two communities, the first stretches from New Bedford's mainland to Fish Island. Wikipedia says a 283.2 foot long swing truss connects Fish Island to Pope's Island. Another span connects Pope's Island to the Fairhaven mainland.

Last week, the swing truss portion of the bridge stopped working again. Fortunately, it was only a matter of hours before it was up and running again.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, in a statement to his Facebook page, said the latest bridge closure "is yet another visible reminder that the structure should have been replaced long ago." Mitchell says, "The bridge was designed for the needs of a bygone era, and it has deteriorated into a state of disrepair that makes closures increasingly frequent." He adds, "Our region's residents and businesses deserve a bridge they can rely on."

The New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge is owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To adequately repair it would likely cost more than $50 million dollars. The Mitchell Administration says it would cost more than $150 million to replace it. But there are no plans to do either.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation released a detailed study on the condition of the bridge in 2017 and what it might take to replace it.

In two years, the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge will be 125 years old. Did you think it will still be operational by then?

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