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Greenfield Facing Potential Loss Of FEMA Funds

GREENFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — One Greenfield viewer’s question in the “Your Stories” segment this week was simple- “What’s going on with the Eunice Williams Bridge and what are we waiting for?”

The historic bridge was rebuilt by town residents in the 1970s, and town leaders are desperately trying to reopen it. Tropical Storm Irene flooded Greenfield with $12 million in damage across town in 2011. The only area not to be fixed so far is the Eunice Williams Bridge.

“It pivoted off the end because there is a concrete support under it and the water swirled around there and it lowered and then the bridge just came down somehow without dislodging itself,” Greenfield Engineering Superintendent Sara Campbell said. “It’s amazing it didn’t just wash away.”

When flood waters swarmed the area, the bridge actually dropped down six feet. That’s why it closed, and almost two years later, it still is. FEMA is willing to foot 75% of the bridge bill so that it’s safe for pedestrians to cross once again, however Greenfield has the extra cash to restore even further so that cars can once again use it, like they once did.

“We made lemonade out of lemons and the idea was that after this tragic event, we were able to take advantage of the situation,” Mayor William Martin said.

“My best friend actually lives on the other side of it, so if it was working, up and running I wouldn’t have to spend 15 minutes driving around it to go see her,” neighbor Monique Grenoble said.

But here’s the catch. Greenfield engineers used covered bridge experts to design a plan for the bridge, now a state Department of Transportation bridge engineer must sign off on the project. Despite many requests from Mayor Martin to do so, that hasn’t happened.

“This project is on the line because we have not finished it and we have to stay within the time limits of FEMA to get the 75% reimbursement,” Martin said.

FEMA says if Greenfield doesn’t have a good reason why they haven’t used the funds by next week, they could lose the money and the chance to improve public safety.

“The bridges just south of us on Green River are the first to be flooded, number two south of us and number three south of us are first to be impacted by high waters so we would have a very difficult time getting fire police and ambulance up to the northern part of Greenfield,” Martin said.

News that residents around the bridge say would be downright shameful.

Mass DOT released a statement, saying

“Mass DOT is taking additional time to perform our own engineering calculations. The plans that were initially submitted were either lacking some calculations or had some calculations that were based on old information. We want to ensure that any bridge that the public has access to is designed as safely as possible.”

Spokesman Michael Verseckes added that Mass DOT is putting extra care into the bridge is precisely because of Hurricane Irene and the need to ensure that everything is squared away.

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