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'Structurally deficient' bridge will deteriorate until 2014

Date: 2/24/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- The Morgan-Sullivan Bridge which links Agawam and West Springfield has been crumbling for years but it will be at least another five before the structure is repaired.

Earlier this month, MassHighway's Project Review Committee approved the bridge's $11.4 million reconstruction, widening and signaling, elevating it to the development and design processes. MassHighway has deemed the 63-year-old bridge "structurally deficient," but unable to advertise for construction before 2014, according to Albert Stegemann, District Highway Director.

"This is a priority project for Agawam for a number of reasons due to the fact that the bridge is not in the best shape and [too small for the increased traffic flow creating] a bottleneck [at the intersection of routes 75, 159 and 147]," Deborah Dachos, director of Planning and Community Development, explained.

She added that the widening of the bridge to relieve congestion and the overall repair will also help to enhance the economic development of Agawam.

"I'm delighted that this project has finally been made a priority," Mayor Susan Dawson said, adding that she will continue to lobby for funding for the completion of the project.

In a letter to Dawson, Stegemann noted that approval from the MassHighway Project Review Committee "is not a commitment of state or federal funding to the project."

"MassHighway, in conjunction with the Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, continually evaluates transportation needs and priorities; therefore, the estimated advertisement date may change significantly as the project developement process progresses," he continued.

Dachos said she and Dawson were more hopeful about the timetable, however.

"We were more optimistic that there would be a three-year turn around [for the completion of the widening and repair of the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge]," Dachos said. "But the economy being the way it is we're lucky [to have approval from the MassHighway Project Review Committee]."

Adam Hurtubise, spokesperson for the Executive Office of Transportation, explained that the next step in the process is to complete the design and development phases before being included in the Transportation Improvement Program.