Elm Street bridge repairs get $500,000 state grant
One long shuttered bridge is a half million dollars closer to being repaired.
On Wednesday, officials announced that Wareham received a $500,000 grant from the state to rehabilitate the Elm Street bridge, which was closed three years ago due to safety concerns.
The five-year, $50 million Small Bridge Program was signed into law in 2016. Under the program, communities may receive up to $500,000 in grant money for town-owned bridges that are between 10 and 20 feet long. Bridges of that length aren’t eligible for federal funds. Wareham was one of 36 cities and towns across Massachusetts that received the grant on the first application.
State Rep. Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham) and Town Administrator Derek Sullivan lauded the announcement.
“The Baker Administration continues to demonstrate the commitment to provide our towns with every possible resource and this program will provide a great benefit to Wareham on many levels,” said Gifford. “The fact that the town received the maximum grant award in the first round not only show the critical need here but is also a testament to the hard work and vision of Derek and his team. I congratulate them.”
Sullivan noted that reopening the bridge may help spur economic development due to its proximity to the Tremont Nail Factory District.
“Wareham is very excited to have received the $500,000 grant award through the Small Bridge Program, especially in the first round of funding. This will allow the town to start fixing a major concern that could have prevented vital economic development,” said Sullivan.
Recently, interest in redeveloping the historic site has spiked as Mass Development, a state agency focused on rehabbing blighted properties, awarded a $50,000 grant to the town. The money will be used to study how the site might attract economic development.
But the question of what to do with the bridge and failing dam has loomed over any redevelopment plans.
The dam is classified as a High Hazard Potential (Class 1) by the Office of Dam Safety at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, meaning that loss of life or major structural damage could occur if it failed.
An August 2014 report said the dam “faces a multitude of repairs in order to maintain public safety” and that an inspection showed “unstable upstream wall sections, sinkholes and leakage . . . and deterioration of concrete,” as just some of the problems, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Repairs, which are estimated at $1.2 million, would include the Elm Street bridge that crosses the dam.
Sullivan noted that the grant will not cover any dam repairs. He said that the bridge grant was a big step in the right direction, but drivers shouldn’t expect the detour to disappear anytime soon.
“This grant at least gives us an opportunity to to start moving forward,” said Sullivan. “This does not mean the road will immediately be open to traffic.”