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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

State Outlines Plan to Replace Saugatuck RR Bridge

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It’s four years away, but Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) officials came to Westport tonight to outline their $50 million plan to replace the century-old railroad bridge over the Saugatuck Image
A Connecticut Department of Transportation team briefed Westporters tonight on a $50 million plan to renovate the railroad bridge over the Saugatuck River. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

At a sparsely attended Town Hall meeting, the planners had good news and bad about the popular pedestrian bridge that runs alongside the railroad tracks from Ferry Lane East to Ferry Lane West.

The good news is that the walkway will be retained in the new design – something town officials had said was critical.  The bad news is that the walkway will have to be shut down for the final two years of the planned four-year construction project set to begin in 2010.

“The new walkway will be 5 feet wide and have an 8-foot fence separating it from the tracks,” said Alim Baycora, a consulting engineer on the project. “And it will have safety gates that will close during a bridge opening.”

The current six-span, 455-foot long bridge carries four tracks and was constructed in 1905, replacing a two-track bridge built in 1844. The third span of the bridge is 108-feet long and is movable to allow for passage underneath of tall ships.

Planners said the new bridge will include a new operator house and a new drive system that controls its opening and closing.

Construction will be in two stages – with work being done on two tracks while the other two tracks remain in operation.

Seven miles of track will be restricted to a two-track operation between East Norwalk and Greens Farms during construction. Temporary platforms will have to be constructed at the three stations as a result, according to the planners.

During the hearing, a resident expressed concern that initial plans called for an extended period when the bridge could not be opened. He said this was unacceptable and would put his marine business in jeopardy.

Public Works Director Steve Edwards asked that CTDOT planners keep in close touch with the town to coordinate planned dredging in the Saugatuck River.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff urged the state to return to Westport to update residents as the construction draws closer. He said CTDOT should also establish a Web site dedicated to the project in order to provide timely information about its progress.

Posted 04/25/06 at 02:16 AM


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