Money Watchers: Route 79 ramps start coming down

The Route 79 ramps in Fall River are starting to come crumbling down.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials joined lawmakers and attended a demolition of one of the spans Friday.

"It's a day we've been looking forward to for quite some time," said state Sen. Carole Fiola.

The work being done is part of phase 1A of the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project. The project is part of Gov. Deval Patrick's $3 billion effort to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in Massachusetts.

"Progress is painful, that's what we say in terms of traffic, but Fall River is open for business now during this construction and a lot of good things are ahead," Fiola said.

If the state had decided to leave it and fix it, it would have been painstakingly slow and expensive.

"It is much cheaper to tear down and rebuild," said MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola.

About of mile of structure is expected to come down, and commuters should expect detours.

"We've closed the southern end of Route 79 and we divert people to the lower roads and we have good signage so people can find their way around. We're putting a large volume of vehicles on Water Street to get people around the beginning of the construction site," DePaola said.

DePaola said the aim is to demolish the ramps by the end of the winter in order to begin excavation in the spring.