The state is planning to construct a new Fore River Bridge costing upwards of $320 million despite months of protest by residents and elected officials from Weymouth, Quincy and Braintree, who say the proposed bridge design is unnecessarily large, complex and expensive.
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Braintree town councilors told Michael Lang, a representative of the East Braintree Civic Association, that they would send a letter in support of his research to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, urging the agency to rethink its decision to build a vertical lift bridge of the type currently spanning the river temporarily between Weymouth and Quincy. They also indicated they would ask state auditor Suzanne Bump to examine the project's finances before it is constructed.
The research developed by Lang and others in the area promoting a bascule-style bridge that opens in the middle shows that a vertical lift bridge would cause additional traffic backups because it opens more slowly, is less attractive to non-industrial businesses that may consider moving into the harbor and is only prefered by state and federal officials because they anticipate as-yet completed "Post-Panamax" cargo ships traveling through the passageway.
Councilors to support the arguments by the civic association and others against the vertical lift bridge proposal.
"To date," Lang said on Tuesday, "there has been little good news."
Lang argued that Citgo, with a facility in Braintree, is behind much of the push. The company, he said, is expecting to use the Post-Panamax ships along the eastern seaboard of the United States (the Panama Canal is undergoing widening for the purpose), and Citgo has told dissenters that they would drop off some cargo before reaching the Fore River in order to fit the water's depth. Yet the turning channel on the ocean side of the bridge is also too small, Lang said.
In a FAQ on its website, the MassDOT says that "All maritime stakeholders, including the United States Coast Guard, would prefer a wider channel opening" and not just Citgo. The agency also estimates the cost there as $289 million.
However, Lang presented documentation from the DOT to the council that showed a wide variety of cost estimates, with the most recent being $326 million, with no notation by the state for aid that was previously expected to come from the federal government. He and others have worked for years, with varying degrees of success, to pry information out of state and federal departments via the Freedom of Information Act.
The DOT also says on its site that ship pass-through time will be shorter under the new bridge than the current, temporary vertical lift structure, and that a bascule bridge would have to be prohibitively large because of how it rotates to open.