By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — A proposal by Groveland to add the line “Veterans’ Memorial Bridge” to the new Congressman William H. Bates Bridge is on its way to being approved locally.
Then the state will make the final decision.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he supports the idea, but that it is ultimately up to the state to rename the span that crosses the Merrimack River and connects the two communities.
The City Council was set to back the plan Tuesday night, but postponed the matter at the request of David Tuttle, commander of Groveland’s American Legion Post 248 who was unable to attend the meeting. Councilors agreed to take up the matter again Sept. 10, when Tuttle can attend.
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 the Haverhill council supports the proposal, Groveland selectmen have said they will ask state Sen. Bruce Tarr to carry the request to state officials.
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.
Tuttle recently sent letters to Haverhill’s mayor, City Council and head of veterans affairs to support Groveland’s request.
If the proposal comes to fruition, the Groveland Bridge will be the third in Haverhill to honor veterans. Comeau Bridge and Basilliere Bridge, on opposite ends of downtown, are both named for local people who died in military service.
Councilor Michael Hart, who served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, 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.