City can't rid itself of broken bridge

Engineers descended on the Brightman Street Bridge on Thursday, a day after state inspectors discovered a crack in the shaft of the drawbridge that connects Fall River and Somerset.

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have deemed the bridge inoperable; a bridge that currently serves no purpose.

The bridge has been closed to traffic for two years since the new Veterans Memorial Bridge opened. Power boats can pass underneath it, but more than twice a day it needs to be raised to allow sailboats and barges to go through.

"I think the bridge is ridiculous. For the money the state's paying for somebody to man that bridge all the time, it can be just left open or torn apart. I don't understand what they're doing down there," said Don Ranger, owner of Somerset Marina.

Engineers hope to have some kind of solution in a week.

"I don't know why they don't just leave it open and let the boats go through and let that guy go on unemployment," Ranger said.

However, engineers told NBC 10 the bridge can't withstand the stress of being left open. So you'd think it could just be dismantled.

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan said he doesn't object the idea.

"Right now, the bridge is defunct. It really serves no purpose," he said. "In its current condition, it's really nothing but rotting steel."

However, the state can't remove it.

Flanagan said the bridge was a key tool in the fight against bringing a liquefied natural gas terminal to Fall River because it made it difficult to navigate tankers to the site. Lawmakers put the bridge into a federal law, protecting it.

"An act of Congress may be needed to actually remove that bridge or even remove the bascules too," Flanagan said.

The bascules are the leaves that open and close, and removing them would leave the river navigable to boats of any size. But the mayor says even that may be prohibited under the federal law.