Will illuminating the Braga at night shed light on the city's positives?

“Working together with our delegation, much is possible.”


  • By Will Richmond
    News Editor
    Posted Feb. 2, 2014 @ 6:09 pm
    Feb 2, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    FALL RIVER — For city residents traveling along Interstate 195 eastbound, the Braga Bridge has long been a symbol marking their return home. But for others, it’s just part of their journey to another location.

    For tourists and commuters, the bridge doesn’t offer much more than a change in scenery as they head for Providence or a destination on Cape Cod. But state Rep. Carole Fiola sees the span as having the potential to be something more.

    She sees the decorative lighting that covers the Zakim Bridge in Boston and knows it’s become a distinguishable landmark in a city full of them. In Fall River, Fiola sees a decoratively lit Braga Bridge becoming a beacon in a city that wants to draw more eyeballs for its positives, especially because the negatives tend to grab attention. It’s a vision that further includes down-lighting Battleship Cove from the bridge with the hopes of getting the attention of passers-by.

    With that in mind, Fiola, who has been in office for about six months, turned a Wednesday crash course in legislative amendments into the first step toward lighting the Braga. Included in the House version of the $12 billion transportation bond bill unanimously approved Wednesday is $500,000 for the planning, design and permitting of the lights.

    Fiola had originally requested the money be used for the next phase of the Route 79 project, but after learning the state has already earmarked funds for that effort, she shifted gears and thought of the Braga.

    “It sounds like something very simple, lighting the bridge, but for those who live here and travel 195, it would make a huge statement,” Fiola said. “It would make a huge statement that something is happening. That this area is open for business.”

    Fiola expects it to come with a $4 million to $5 million price tag. It’s money that some are likely to scrutinize — reasonably so. And they may have a few questions. Can’t that be put to better use? Could it be used to provide services for those in need, or fund programs that have a more direct impact on people’s day-to-day lives? Shouldn’t every dime of the state’s money should go to high-priority needs?

    “We’re spending dimes on a lot things,” Fiola said, acknowledging that such comments are expected. “This is just a piece. It was an opportunity, and I wasn’t aware of any other transportation projects besides (Route 79), but that’s not going be done for $4 million.”

    Beyond the financial investment, Fiola said she sees a payoff that falls in line with Mayor Will Flanagan’s goal for the next two years of raising the city’s self-esteem.

    “This is the kind of thing that can affect quality of life,” Fiola said. “It lets people say, ‘Look at what we got.’ It’s not only Providence, Boston, Cambridge, Australia that should get these kinds of things. It says we’re worthy of the same opportunities and amenities.”

    She thinks that mentality will also help drive economic development. If the jobs come, self-esteem — with the satisfaction of providing for a family through an earned paycheck — can come with it.

    To get Fiola’s vision to this preliminary point, she looks to the cooperation of the region’s legislative delegation, but she also knows that’s not enough. She’s already called on lighting company Philips, whose products illuminate the Zakim Bridge, to assist. Regional meetings with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have also happened, with follow-up meetings planned with Transportation Secretary Richard Davey and Highway Administrator Frank DePaola.

    “Everyone agrees, it’s a splendid vision,” Fiola said.