Amid much pomp and ceremony, the Brown Street/Whipple Road Bridge that spans Wilmington and Tewksbury officially re-opened on Friday.
The bridge had been closed since Spring 2010, when the bridge was heavily damaged by flood waters.
The bridge is technically owned by Wilmington and Billerica but it has a major impact on Tewksbury residents in the Whipple road area. After much negotiation and planning by officials from the three towns and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, work on repairs to the bridge began in June.
Doug Sears, vice chairman of the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen said the construction worked to "restore a vital public safety link among three communities."
Work on the bridge had originally been targeted for completion by Oct. 31 but was completed a full five weeks early.
“It was great joining with the towns and playing a key role in bringing this project to completion. I want to thank (Transportation) Secretary Davey, the people at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, especially John Romano, for all of their help making this a reality,” said state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, who was the first driver to cross over the bridge at the conclusion of the ceremony. “This bridge is vital to the transportation needs of Tewksbury, Wilmington and Billerica, and to have it completed more than a month ahead of schedule is an extra bonus.”
While the cost of planning and design and some of the cost of construction was shared by the three towns, the state contributed $170,000 to the final construction costs.
“Rebuilding transportation infrastructure across the Commonwealth means addressing projects both large and small in scope but always of critical importance to their local communities,” said State Highway Administrator Frank DePaola. “I am pleased to be here today to see the results of our collaboration with local and state leaders in reopening this bridge.”
With the bridge closed, commuters had to find alternative routes of travel, contributing to increased traffic on Shawsheen Street, Route 38 and other roads. However, according to Tewksbury Town Manager Richard Montuori, reopening the bridge was especially critical to a select group of commuters.
"It was a public safety issue," said Montuori. "Fire trucks, ambulances -- the response times were impacted."