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LOWELL -- The city and surrounding communities are expected to send letters of support for a permanent Rourke Bridge to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) at the start of 2014, according to Beverly Woods, executive director of the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG).

The entire region is "very supportive of advancing the project," Woods said on Thursday. NMCOG is asking Lowell, Chelmsford, Tyngsboro and Dracut to draft letters of support and send them to state.

If MassDOT receives the letters in January, then NMCOG is looking to hear good news in March, Woods said.

"We're hopeful they'll say it's a reasonable project to undertake, and they'll begin the environmental review," she said.

The two-lane "temporary" Rourke Bridge was opened in 1983, connecting Pawtucket Boulevard with Middlesex Street at the Middlesex Plaza Shopping Center.

All four proposals would call for a four-lane bridge, as opposed to the two lanes on the temporary span over the Merrimack River.

The estimated cost for the four proposals in 2025 dollars ranges from $54.5 million to $82.4 million. The project would be funded through state and federal money.

It would likely take at least eight years for any of the proposals to move from the start of the process to the end.

Environmental permits would have to be secured, the design phase would have to be completed, and construction would follow afterwards.

For more on this story, read Friday's edition of The Sun or visit www.lowellsun.com.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun.