The joy goes two ways
More than a dozen residents take part in an inpromtu parade over the re-opened Gill-Montague Bridge on Saturday. Photo by Beth Reynolds
Holly Givens of the Montague Business Association was part of an impromptu parade over the re-opened Turners Falls-Gill Bridge in November. (Recorder file/Beth Reynolds)
TURNERS FALLS — Near the Turners Falls side of the Turners Falls-Gill bridge, Holly Givens of the Montague Business Association smiled as she waved a cardboard sign that read, “2-Way Bridge. Honk 4 Joy.”
And drivers obliged, creating a chorus of celebratory horns as they crossed in both lanes over the Connecticut River. The 75-year-old steel bridge, which residents called a vital pathway between Route 2 traffic and downtown Turners Falls, was back in action Friday after 31/2 years of operating with a single lane.
The news spread quickly Friday night and residents took to social media, organizing an informal parade on the bridge’s walking path Saturday afternoon. A crowd of about 35, many equipped with small instruments and Turners Falls balloons, crossed the bridge together at noon.
“It’s great. It’s spontaneous. That’s become kind of the hallmark of Turners Falls,” said Montague Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio. He believes the two-lane traffic will rejuvenate the town’s businesses that have been hurt by the construction-related detours.
Residents said that while motorists were able to turn off the highway into Turners Falls, the construction may have deterred some from doing so. And those who did make it into town then had trouble finding their way out, forced to take a detour via Greenfield to return to the highway.
Erin MacLean, owner of the 2-year-old crafter shop, Loot, on Avenue A, is not sure what to expect for her business now that the bridge is opened back up.
“The bridge has been closed the whole time,” she said. “I’ve already noticed just last night when the bridge opened that more people were in the store than normal. I think it’s already having an effect.”
Lisa Davol, a nine-year resident of the town who will leave her post as Turners Falls River Culture coordinator next week, said that even with the construction, businesses were still able to open and find ways to bring in customers.
“It seems like if you’ve made it through this, you’re really going to make it,” she said.
Davol said that there’s been fun events throughout construction — like an effort to decorate hard hats and auction them off to raise money for River Culture.
“In a way, it was really good for the morale of the town,” she said. “People really stuck together and had fun with it and bonded over it.”
The fun continued Saturday as the pack walked over the bridge. Seven-year resident Kevin Smith played Simon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” on his silver tuba. Upon request, he then transitioned into “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “London Bridge is Falling Down.”
And once they made it across to Gill, the crowd was greeted with free ice cream at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant.
The state is paying $40.7 million for wider travel lanes, remodeled approaches, increased bicycle access and repairs to the steel bridge.
“That bridge is really just a gem,” said Abbondanzio, the town administrator. “The state did an excellent job in doing a historical preservation. ... It’s probably made that gateway into Turners one of the best gateways in Franklin County.”
You can reach Chris Shores at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264