Charles M. Braga, Jr. Bridge

At just over a mile long, the Braga Bridge , also known as the Charles M. Braga Jr. Memorial Bridge, is one of the longest bridge structures in Massachusetts. It carries Interstate 195 over the Taunton River between the town of Somerset and the city of Fall River.

History

Construction of the bridge started in 1959 and finished in the spring of 1966. The bridge was constructed to carry I-195 across the Taunton River on its way west to Providence. The total span of the bridge is 5,780 feet (1,760 m), and it goes 135 feet (41 m) over high water in the Taunton River to accommodate a high-traffic shipping lane in the river. It is approximately 101 feet (31 m) wide, wide enough to accommodate six lanes of traffic. It is named after Charles M. Braga, a Fall River native of Portuguese American descent who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

As the Braga Bridge approached its 25th anniversary in 1989, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) undertook a comprehensive two-year rehabilitation of the span and approaches. The project included the replacement of the existing deck with a new lightweight deck overlaid with bituminous concrete. Construction crews repaired and repainted structural steel along the length of the mile-long span, a new concrete Jersey barrier was built in the center median, and "suicide fences" were built along the span.

In 2003, the Massachusetts Highway Department began what was to be a three-year, $9 million rehabilitation of the Braga Bridge. The scope of the work was similar to that of the 1989–1990 project, but the new top concrete layer of roadway was given a latex additive that resists water seepage and thus reduces cracking. Originally scheduled for completion in 2005, the end of the project was first re-scheduled for 2006 because of delays associated with the nearby Government Center project along I-195 in Fall River.

In the late summer of 2009, a vote was held for SouthCoast residents to decide on a new color for the bridge. Over 7,000 votes were cast, with voters choosing a dark blue color over lime green (the current color), light blue, and silver. The work began on the new paint job began on April 11, 2010, and is scheduled for completion in June 2011. The estimated cost for the project is $13.3 million.

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