Budget Bill Includes $900K for Gallivan Overpass

The House and Senate have both approved a supplemental budget bill that includes $900,000 in state cash to build a pedestrian walkway over a particularly busy stretch of Gallivan Boulevard. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Mitt Romney, who has until this weekend to either sign the budget into law or veto the whole package, which includes a total of $722 million to fund projects across the Commonwealth.

The pedestrian bridge would offer pedestrians safe passage across a section of Gallivan Boulevard near Neponset Circle that civic leaders say has seen a large jump in foot traffic since the opening of the 72-acre Pope John Paul II Park in 2000. The park is a popular destination for young children, families, bicyclists and youth sports participants. But accessing the park by foot from nearby Neponset neighborhoods can be hazardous. Traffic from an I-93 off-ramp spills into the stretch of Gallivan right before the park's main entrance and cars entering and exiting a nearby strip mall make the roadway even more congested.

According to State Rep. Martin Walsh, who pushed for the footbridge along with State Senator Jack Hart and Speaker Tom Finneran, the lawmakers do not yet know precisely where the footbridge will be located. Walsh says that the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation would be charged with studying the area and building the structure.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Hart said, "Many children from surrounding neighborhoods are forced to cross this busy roadway without appropriate pedestrian safety measures. This pedestrian walkway is not a convenience, but rather a necessity."

Walsh says that unlike a transportation bond bill -passed earlier this year- which included a similar line-item to fund the same Gallivan footbridge, this supplemental budget item is already fully-funded and will have more immediate results.

"It's a big victory for public safety in Dorchester," Walsh said on Tuesday. "This is real cash, not just a bond bill."

Walsh said he expects that work could begin on building the structure by next February.

If the project does go forward, the footbridge would be the first to traverse Gallivan Boulevard. Two similar structures are in place to aid crossings over Morrissey Boulevard: one is located at the bottom of Pope's Hill near the Murphy Elementary School and a second spans the boulevard near Columbia Point.

The supplemental budget also includes monies to fund the Area B-3 police district, including $250,000 for "anti-gang" initiatives in the Morton Street-Talbot Avenue corridor and $50,000 for "enhanced policing activities" in Mattapan Square. The funding will be made available over two years, totaling $600,000, according to Speaker Tom Finneran's spokesperson, Kimberly Haberlin.

Finneran and Rep. Shirley Owens-Hicks discussed the budget plan last Thursday night at the Dorchester Boys & Girls Club on Talbot Avenue.

"Community leaders, elected officials, and concerned citizens all agreed at our last gathering that summer jobs are a potent antidote to crime," Finneran said in a statement. "With this in mind, my colleagues and I worked to include additional state funding for many anti-violence programs in the supplemental budget. I am confident that, going forward, the combination of summer jobs and community policing will help give our children back their futures and our citizens back their streets."

A separate line item also directs $260,000 to the Rev. Eugene Rivers's Ella J. Baker House on Washington Street for "violence prevention programs for high-risk youths"; and more than $3 million in additional funds to pay for summer jobs programs in Boston and other cities.

The budget bill directs $336 million in state monies to a "rainy day fund" that Finneran hopes will become a mandatory savings deposit each year, according to Haberlin.