Herald News opinion: An illuminated Braga Bridge could light the way to a brighter day


Posted Feb. 3, 2014 @ 6:00 pm
Feb 4, 2014 at 3:48 PM

Since its construction in the 1960s, the Braga Bridge has become a symbol for Fall River and the landmark motorists most associate with the city. Therefore, the appearance of the bridge influences the image that both area residents and those passing through associate with Fall River and the SouthCoast.

When the green bridge was rusting, it sadly symbolized a decaying city. The paint that transformed the landmark bridge to a more nautical deep blue hue has helped improve that image to motorists in recent years. The new coat of paint has helped boost Fall River’s own self image, too. Along with the fresh coat of blue, some have called for an even grander vision of the Braga glimmering in the night with a changing display of lights.

Now, if the $500,000 in funding state Rep. Carole Fiola, D-Fall River, was able to secure for the project in the House version of the $12 billion transportation bond bill sticks, it could truly be Fall River’s time to shine, while also appropriately illuminating Battleship Cove, a significant historical landmark sometimes missed by the throngs of tourists driving over the bridge on their way to or from Cape Cod.

If the Senate signs on to the House’s transportation plan and it gets the governor’s signature, the $500,000 would allow for the planning, design and permitting of lights. To that end, Fiola also hopes to enlist the support of Philips Lightolier, which has a Fall River base of operations. Philips Lightolier lights illuminate Boston’s Zakim Bridge.

Advances in lighting technology in recent years have made possible some stunning, changing LED light displays. Fiola looks at the landmark Zakim Bridge on Interstate 93, which is illuminated with LED lights, and wonders why Fall River’s own landmark bridge cannot also shine bright.

A little closer to home, just down Route 24, Rhode Island’s new Sakonnet River Bridge, connecting Tiverton and Portsmouth, greets motorists with inviting LED lighting at night.

Meanwhile, the new Pawtucket River Bridge on Interstate 95, just over the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border, offers a stunning, seasonally changing display of LED lights both along the highway and to the city below. In a way, the lights have helped put Pawtucket — an old, industrial city similar in many ways to Fall River — on the map. The illuminated landmark bridge has helped make Pawtucket a gateway to Rhode Island, much the same way lights on the mile-long Braga Bridge — one of New England’s longest bridges — could help truly make Fall River a gateway city for Massachusetts.

Certainly, there are more pressing priorities when it comes to the commonwealth’s road and bridge infrastructure. But considering the stature of our landmark bridge along a major route taken by Cape Cod tourists, it seems a small price to pay to make the Braga Bridge, Fall River and Somerset truly shine and give the SouthCoast a landmark we can take pride in.

As Fiola told The Herald News, “It would make a huge statement that something is happening. That this area is open for business.” Let’s hope Fiola, along with the entire SouthCoast legislative delegation, can make a strong pitch to their colleagues for making the investment in illuminating the Braga Bridge.