By Bruce Amaro
---- — HAVERHILL — Two of the three major bridges spanning the Merrimack River in Haverhill are named for veterans.
If a local veterans group has its way, a third bridge will also honor those who dedicated part of their lives to military service.
Groveland officials and the town’s American Legion Post have asked Haverhill to support altering the name of the new bridge connecting the two communities so the span becomes a veterans memorial.
Groveland town officials asked the Haverhill City Council to support adding the line “Veterans’ Memorial Bridge” to the new Congressman William H. Bates Bridge.
Construction of the new bridge is almost finished. It will replace the old and deteriorated Bates Bridge, more commonly known as the Groveland Bridge.
If Haverhill supports Groveland’s request, the town’s selectmen will ask state Sen. Bruce Tarr to add the line to the bridge. The new plaque would read: “The Congressman William H. Bates Veterans’ Memorial Bridge.’’
Massachusetts law does not allow a city or town to rename a new bridge that is built to replace a current one. But the name on the replacement bridge can be amended with additional lines of dedication.
David Tuttle, commander of Groveland’s American Legion Post 248, sent letters to Haverhill’s mayor, City Council and head of veterans affairs to support Groveland’s request.
Haverhill’s Comeau Bridge and Basilliere Bridge are both named for local people who died in military service.
City Councilor Michael Hart served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. He said adding the veterans’ memorial words to the Groveland Bridge makes sense.
“This is something that doesn’t cost the city anything ... and thanks the veterans in a subtle and visible way,” Hart said.
The new 775-foot-long span will carry Route 97 traffic between Groveland and Haverhill.
The $50 million bridge is scheduled to open in early 2014.