JEERS to the snail’s pace of a project to overhaul Haverhill’s Basiliere Bridge.
The arterial bridge that connects Bradford with downtown Haverhill is literally falling apart, with chunks of concrete breaking away. The bridge bears state Route 125 and about 35,000 vehicles per day.
It is 95 years old. It’s been deemed “structurally deficient” by the state for more than a decade, according to Mayor James Fiorentini. It’s in such poor shape that the state has put it on a 12-month inspection cycle — instead of the more typical 24-month cycle — so that any changes in its condition will be more quickly discovered.
But a project to overhaul the bridge is four years in the future, at best — a timetable that’s leading to growing concerns on the City Council and within the Fire Department, whose leaders worry about the bridge’s ability to support heavy ladder trucks.
Of the department’s two ladder trucks, only one meets the bridge’s weight limit, according to reporter Allison Corneau’s recent update on the bridge’s condition. The other, Ladder 1, must drive around to the Comeau Bridge in order to respond to calls in Bradford.
Councilor Joe Bevilacqua has pointed to a recent sinkhole on the Bradford side of the bridge that’s “an early warning call that the bridge is deteriorating, and we have to have prompt attention paid.”
“Concrete’s falling apart everywhere,” Councilor Tim Jordan added at a recent meeting, according to reporter Corneau’s account. “I’m amazed that it’s in such bad shape as it’s in, and we’re rolling the dice with everyone’s safety by pushing into 2024.”
To be sure, these concerns aren’t new. Fiorentini has already sounded alarms about the bridge’s condition, saying last fall that he worries the state could be forced to shut it down before repairs are made.
“We have been writing and notifying (the state Department of Transportation) about this bridge’s condition for years,” he said last October. “This bridge needs to be fixed or replaced as soon as possible, before there is a mandated closing.”
But fears about the bridge are growing more urgent. Bevilacqua has suggested involving state lawmakers, members of Congress, as well as MassDOT and others at City Hall in a campaign to get the overhaul on a faster cycle.
It’s a worthy goal and one that needs to be taken up quickly, lest everyone who lives and works in downtown Haverhill, or just passes through, face a knot of traffic and delays when the city’s busiest bridge is taken out of commission.
CHEERS to the weekend return of an important community institution.
This past weekend, the Lawrence Public Library’s main branch at 51 Lawrence St. opened on a Saturday for the first time since 2008. The library celebrated its newly restored weekend hours with festivities that included story hours for children and a mini golf course set up on the second floor.
“A core public library value is equitable access, and now we can be true to that by being open at our main library when most people are available,” library director Jessica Vilas Novas told reporter Terry Date.
The main location has been dark on weekends since the 2008 recession forced staff cuts. A recent decision to add three full-time and four part-time jobs has allowed Novas and the library's other leaders to restore Saturday and Sunday service. Now, the public can visit the library every day of the week, with the exception of holidays.
The smaller South Lawrence branch on Parker Street, which remained open on weekends, will now only have hours on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Libraries are vital community centers, and there’s something symbolic about the weekend reopening of the main branch just off the Campagnone Common.
It’s a small but important sign of renewal for the city.