HOLYOKE – Almost immediately after the flags and lectern had been cleared and the elected officials were out of the way, the vehicles flowed across the newly renovated Willimansett Bridge.
There were not just a few, but a continual line of traffic in both directions with drivers waving and honking their horns.
The bridge reopened at 3:30 p.m. on June 11 after four years of reconstruction work that was delayed when the first contractor went bankrupt. Northern Construction finished the job and was lauded by the speakers who included Mayor Alex Morse, Mayor Richard Kos, state Sen. Donald Humason Jr. and state Reps. Aaron Vega and Joseph Wagner.
Vega said that some people had suggested it would have been cheaper to have torn down the bridge built in 1891 and build a new one. He said that it is important to maintain the history and the bridge that first linked the two communities.
The reconstruction did come at a price to local businesses, which suffered thousands of dollars in losses every month, Vega added. He has sponsored a bill that would allow municipalities to grant abatements on property taxes to businesses that are suffering from circumstances such as a bridge closing.
Wagner said elected officials held “the feet” of Massachusetts Department of Transportation “to the fire” to get the job completed. Wagner said that what was original budgeted as a $19 million project grew to about $26 million due to the interruption in the schedule.
Humason noted, “This is a tale of two cities, two administrations and two contractors – I’ll only mention the one.”
Kos and a contingent of Chicopee councilors and staffers walked across the bridge from the Chicopee side. In the spirit of “intercity commerce,’ Kos brought Morse a frozen French meat pie from Al’s Diner.
Morse congratulated businesses near the bridge in both cities as “overcoming such economic odds over the past several years.”