A $12.7 billion transportation bond bill signed by Gov. Deval Patrick last week could provide up to $35.5 million for projects in Haverhill — the most of any community in the area.
The bill, which received overwhelming legislative support, authorizes the state to borrow money for the rehabilitation and repair of the Basiliere Bridge, the redevelopment of the Merrimack Street Garage and the continued planning and construction of the Bradford Rail Trail.
“The authorization of these funds will provide Haverhill with further opportunities to address the needs of our city’s infrastructure and will help with the continued redevelopment of downtown Haverhill and the river,” state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, D-Haverhill, said last week. Dempsey chairs the House Ways & Means committee.
The Haverhill projects, which will be funded as bonds are sold, are based upon the Commonwealth’s Five Year Capital Investment plan that sets out the timelines and amounts for hundreds of projects around the state — many which have been under consideration for years. For instance, the Basiliere Bridge, which could receive up to $30 million — if the governor appropriates the money — has been on the state list of transportation improvements for more than a decade.
In addition, the city could receive $1.5 million in Chapter 90 funding for local road and bridge repairs for the fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1. The bond bill (H 4046) authorizes $300 million statewide to help municipalities pay for a year’s worth of local transportation projects. Patrick’s signing of the bond bill enables the state Department of Transportation to move forward with these projects as early as this week, according to state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.
“It’s a great first step,” Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said of the potential improvements that could be made in his city.
“But, it doesn’t mean these projects will actually get done it. It’s an authorization, not an appropriation. It only becomes real when the governor appropriates the money. I don’t like to oversell the transportation bond. Without this first step, we can’t get anywhere,” he said.
Other local communities that could benefit from the bond bill include:
Methuen: $3.1 million for four projects, including $1.5 million for the repaving of Merrimack Street. The city could also receive $1.2 million in Chapter 90 funds.
North Andover: $1.5 million to pay for improvements along a stretch of Route 114 from the Lawrence municipal boundary to the intersection of Mill and Willow streets. The town could also receive an additional $823,533 for local road and bridge repairs.
Andover: $1.4 million authorized in Chapter 90 funding for local road and bridge repairs.
Lawrence: $1.3 million authorized for local road and bridge repairs.
The Senate approved the transportation bond bill by a unanimous vote last Thursday after House members voted 149-2 in favor of it earlier in the week.
“Quite frankly, I think spending is out of control on Beacon Hill,” said state Rep. James J. Lyons Jr., R-Andover. He and Rep Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), were the only opponents.
“To authorize $12.7 billion to allow this governor to decide how to spend it, I just wasn’t willing to support that. We’re already one of the highest debt states in the nation and we continue to pile more debt on the backs of the taxpayers and it’s got to stop,” Lyons said.
Other local legislators hailed the bond bill as a potential boost to the local economy.
“This represents significant investment in local priorities and these projects will enhance quality of life by spurring economic growth, expanding safe pedestrian and bike access and improving critical transportation infrastructure,” state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, said of the Haverhill projects.
Ives worked closely with Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, to make sure the final version of bond bill included funds for safety improvements along Route 114, one of the busiest roads in North Andover.
“Over the years, this intersection and its surrounding major roadways have proven to be a concern for pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile traffic alike, O’Connor Ives said.
A road safety audit report released earlier this year by the state Department of Transportation noted that Route 114 has one of the highest incidences of car crashes in the region. The report recommended traffic signalization improvements, sidewalk construction and increased accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians — projects that could be funded with the $1.5 million authorized for North Andover.
The $3.1 million authorized for Methuen targets these projects: $1.5 million for the repaving of Merrimack Street; $1 million for design and public safety improvements of the intersection of Burnham Road and Routes 110 and 113; $500,000 for survey, design and improvements to the Methuen Rail Trail; and $100,000 for the planning and upgrade of traffic signals at the intersection of Route 113 and Tyler Street.