BOSTON — The state's transportation department is now soliciting design plans to replace the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge, according to an announcement from State Rep. Bill Straus.

Straus said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is beginning the process to design and permit a replacement for the bridge, which carries Route 6 over the Acushnet River.

MassDOT's highway division is soliciting engineering plans for the project at a 25% design level in a Scope of Work document set to be released "shortly," according to Straus' announcement.

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Construction of the bridge began in 1897, nearly 125 years ago — and it occasionally shows its age when the hydraulic system malfunctions, as happened just last month.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell took to Twitter after the closure in March, stating, "We don't need more reminders that the bridge needs to be replaced."

He cited a 2014 MassDOT feasibility study that found the bridge is "functionally obsolete," but that replacing it would cost around $120 million.


Completion of preliminary design work is standard for projects of this scope before they can be included on construction funding lists, Straus noted, adding that the work will be "critical to the project's future funding success."

Straus pointed out in his announcement that Mitchell “has been tireless in his advocacy for this project," going on to state, "I cannot recall a legislative delegation meeting where he has failed to bring this up."

He added: “I want to thank Highway Administrator Gulliver and the Highway District #5 staff for their cooperation with me in getting the start for this engineering work.

“While this project will ultimately cost more than $100 million to permit and construct, a replacement bridge has significant economic value as it will allow better access through our port by widening of the available channel for vessels and providing for more up to date and efficient operations during bridge openings."

Both Straus, who is the House Chair of the Transportation Committee on Beacon Hill, and his colleague, New Bedford State Rep. Antonio Cabral, have long advocated for a bridge replacement project.

In 2015, the pair recommended a tall vertical lift bridge design, according to the release.

The soon-to-be-released Scope of Work will likely ask engineering services to include project development engineering along with environmental considerations, 25% highway design submission, public hearings, geotechnical design, structural project development and sketch plans.

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