Battle of the bridge

By JOANNA JAMES Gazette Staff Writer



BERKLEY - The Berkley Board of Selectmen officially endorsed replacing the historic Berkley-Dighton Bridge with a new bridge at last night's selectmen's meeting. But not everyone in the standing-room-only crowd agreed on how it should be done.

Board members said they were in favor of replacing the current bridge constructed in 1896 because of "public safety issues from the bridge's deteriorating factors."

Selectman Joseph Senato said after a 100 years of the current bridge, it's time to build a "safer bridge that will last another 100 years."

Maintaining a historic look for a new bridge wasn't the controversial factor. Rather, the danger in both widening - and not widening - the roads sparked a heated debate.

The board unanimously voted not to change existing roadways to accommodate trucking or commercial use. However, selectmen were not in favor of limiting vehicle traffic.

Marci Rogers lives on Elm Street, close to the bridge, and said in the last 10 years she replaced five mailboxes from car accidents in front of her house.

Rogers looked at the widening of the streets as a "Catch 22" because she said either way, pedestrians and children riding their bicycles in the area are in danger.

If the roads are widened it could invite more commercial use from trucks, and if they're not widened the trucks and cars that already use that route will be able to go faster while there won't be room for pedestrians.

Another man asked if the roads aren't widened, "what's going to happen when a kid gets killed."

People throughout the room reacted to the remark until Chairperson Carol Mills intervened with her gavel. "We won't have any bantering back and forth," she said.

Roland Hebert, the transportation planning manager from Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), suggested an alternative to widening existing roads.

He recommended creating "a bike-way or multi-use trail because of the high foot traffic in that area leading to schools."

Marge Ghilarducci, secretary for the volunteer group Save Our Bridge (SOB), made a few requests, such as looking at safety issues and having the Historic Berkley Commission take part in the negotiations for designing the bridge.

One man from SOB wanted more future communication from the selectmen because he felt the board had not informed the volunteer group of some previous decisions and meetings.

Rep. David Sullivan, D-Fall River, also attended the meeting since he joined the Berkley Board of Selectmen at a recent Boston meeting with MassHighway officials.

ŠThe Taunton Gazette 2005