While hundreds of Massachusetts bridges are in need of serious repairs, one bridge is being replaced even though nothing heavier than a horse is expected to go over it.
The span known as the horse bridge crosses over Route 24 in Randolph and is being rebuilt for $4.6 million, up from its original price tag of $2.6 million. It connects one portion of the 238-acre Blue Hills Reservation with another.
The project is good news for riding enthusiasts who want their bridge back.
"I was psyched. I thought, Whoo-hoo, new bridge!" said Amy Mullin, who owns the nearby Blazing Saddles Equestrian Center.
She makes no apologies for being in favor of the bridge's reconstruction.
"How many other misappropriations have been given through the state for financial funding" she said. "You can ride here for an hour, an hour-and-a-half on this side. It's fun but it gets boring. But once that bridge is back, you can ride five, six hours."
Steve Olanoff with the Friends of the Blue Hills said it's not just horses which use the bridge. He's led hikes over the old bridge, which was built in 1958 after Route 24 cut through the reservation.
"They built this bridge as sort of mitigation to keep the reservation connected together so people can use the trails and go from one section to the other," he said.
The state defends the reconstruction, too.
"This bridge is in fact a critical piece of infrastructure in the Blue Hills Reservation," said Wendy Fox, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the reservation.
Fox says the bridge also provides a way for maintenance and emergency vehicles, to cross Route 24 without leaving the park.
"Is it really heavily used?" asked FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet.
"It's very popular. It's popular and it's necessary," Fox said.
"Do you have any numbers to back that up?" Beaudet asked.
"We don't. We haven't counted but it's over the years obviously, it wouldn't be being rehabilitated and fixed up and made safe if it weren't used. It's used," she replied.
It's potentially used by the 30 or so horses at Mullin's farm and by about 20 horses at a neighboring farm. That means the state is paying about $92,000 per horse to fund the $4.6 million dollar horse bridge.
Frank Tramontozzi, the chief engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said the project wasn't a waste of money because the old bridge was structurally deficient.
"It was in need of being replaced," he said.
There are more than 500 other bridges in the state considered structurally deficient, but Tramontozzi said the horse bridge needed fixing.
"This was a priority also because cars, many cars are travelling underneath it. And trucks are travelling underneath it. And trucks would continue to hit it had we not raised the profile of that bridge," he said.
Tramontozzi says the original price was just a preliminary estimate and that the project ended up being redesigned, resulting in the $4.6 million bill.
As for Amy Mullin, the owner of that horse farm, she says she's planning to hold a party when the bridge opens next month.