New Bedford Seniors Want Melville Towers Pedestrian Bridge Replaced
Residents at New Bedford's Melville Towers are speaking out about the need to replace a pedestrian bridge over Route 6 that connected their complex to the downtown area and helped them avoid having to cross multiple lanes of the roadways that make up the intersection dubbed the "octopus."
"I live in Melville Towers and I just want you to know that many of my neighbors agree with me, that a new crossover, or whatever they call them, needs to be built," said Anita, who called into WBSM. "The one that was here before, made walking downtown such a pleasure. Since they tore it down, we take our lives into our own hands every time we cross the 'octopus.'"
"I don't know why they took it down in the first place. No one gave us the respect to ask how we felt about its removal. Two of our friends have been killed there already," she claimed.
An email from the grandson of one of the residents at Melville echoed those sentiments.
"When the pedestrian bridge was taken away, they committed a bad injustice to the people who live in Melville," he wrote.
Anita wondered if, although Mayor Jon Mitchell has said the city's ARPA funding can't go toward repairing roads, if maybe it could go toward replacing the pedestrian bridge.
"Now that the mayor has a bunch of money there, why doesn't he put back the overpass so seniors can go downtown without having to cross that crazy traffic jungle?" she said. "Drivers aren't even paying attention because they're too damn busy looking at their phones."
We inquired with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation as to who was responsible for the pedestrian bridge, the state or the city?
"The pedestrian bridge that was removed was owned by the City of New Bedford," said MassDOT spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley in response to an email inquiry. "We advise you to contact the City pertaining to the City's plans, if any, to replace it or take other steps."
Mike Lawrence, spokesperson for Mayor Jon Mitchell's administration, said he had no comment on an overhead walkway.
"But I can say that a $1.1 million project in 2015 shortened all the crosswalks at the 'octopus' and reconstructed them with new pedestrian ramps," he said. "New signal equipment also was part of the upgrades at the time, with new call buttons and countdown equipment."
The residents, though, say it isn't enough.
"We don't move as fast now, and when we had the bridge, we could go along at our own pace without any fear that we'd get hit by a car," Anita said.
For the present, it doesn't look like there's much interest in rebuilding that pedestrian bridge, but residents should make their voices heard to their city councilors and the Mayor's Office.
"The City certainly agrees that safety is crucial at that intersection, and ideas for improved safety are consistently considered and explored," Lawrence said.