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Following deadly crashes, MassDOT to install fencing on Veteran’s Memorial Bridge

SE Mass

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — A little more than a year after a motorcyclist was seriously injured after going over bridge ramp railing in Fall River, more work is being done to make the roadway safer.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) says it will start to install fencing along the ramp from the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge to Route 79 in Fall River beginning Monday.

A MassDOT spokesperson told 12 News the work includes furnishing and installing MassDOT’s Type II Protective Screen on interior and exterior barriers of the ramp carrying Route 6 eastbound to Route 79 southbound. Approximately 1610 linear feet of fencing will be installed.

Work will require the right lane on Route 6 eastbound to be closed to traffic weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., so drivers should expect delays, reduce speed, and use caution. 

Drivers should also prepare for various lane and shoulder closures on Route 6 westbound.

The cost for the safety improvements is being funded through MassDOT’s statewide bridge program, and estimated to be approximately $900,000, including the cost of the fence, installation, and traffic control during the installation, according to a MassDOT spokesperson.

This Google Earth photo provided by MassDOT shows proposed limits of fence to be installed along the existing concrete barrier.

The fencing work comes on the heels of other safety upgrades in the works since February, when MassDOT added reflective strips to the ramp, plus a larger, more visible sign to remind drivers the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, in addition to the presence of a dangerous curve. 

Last June, police say a motorcyclist was driving on the off-ramp when he crashed into the side barrier and flew over it into the shallow part of the river just below. He was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital and survived.

In November last year, a similar incident, unfortunately, ended with a motorcyclist’s death. The body of Gary Amaral was found in the water the next day.

“It really resonated with everyone that this is a dangerous spot,” Rep. Carole Fiola, D-Fall River, told 12 News in a virtual interview.

Fiola, along with other local officials, called for MassDOT to undertake additional safety measures on the bridge.

“Of course, we can’t control people,” Fiola said. “You know, when there’s 30 miles an hour, you will feel like you’re crawling. We all know that, that’s a reality. When you go 55 on the highway, you are crawling, but that’s the speed limit, and it is there for a reason.”

Fiola said she believes the new fencing will be a good remedy for the bridge and is relieved MassDOT was able to expedite the project.

“I am glad this is going to be done, and then we can move on and maybe learn some lessons from this,” Fiola said. “One accident was too many. Two was way too many, and I think we learned something here.”

Fiola said she wants to make sure there’s better communication with MassDOT when it comes to improving or building new bridges.

“We need more infrastructure improvements in our Commonwealth,” Fiola said. “But when we’re building these new ones, let’s just take a little an extra look at what could happen, even though they meet safety standards.”

Work is weather-dependent and may be impacted due to an emergency situation, but MassDOT says the project is expected to be completed in about a month.

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