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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Merritt Redo Raises Local Traffic Concerns

By James Lomuscio

Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials tonight unveiled a $72 million plan to resurface and renovate 4.95 miles of the Merritt Parkway, including six bridges in Westport from Newtown Turnpike to Fairfield.

WestportNow.com Image
A CDOT engineer cited deterioration on the Newtown Turnpike bridge that could lead to capstone and fascia falling hazards. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The plan presented at a public information session that drew only about 20 persons to Town Hall raised concerns from First Selectman Jim Marpe about the impact of rerouted traffic on town neighborhoods. He recalled CDOT’s repeated delays in repairs to the North Avenue bridge over the Merritt, now scheduled for completion in June.

“We’re concerned about the full closing of the Newtown Turnpike bridge and the detours that will be required,” Marpe said. “In your budget do you include money for traffic control? Factoring in that impact on the neighborhoods will be important.”

Michael Cherpak, CDOT project engineer, said the parkway resurfacing and bridge restorations scheduled to commence in the spring of 2017 are designed to improve safety and enhance the 1938-built Merritt Parkway, while maintaining its historic character and aesthetics.

He said the Merritt overpass bridges in Westport included in the project are on Newtown Turnpike, Wilton Road, Clinton Avenue, Weston Road, Easton Road, and Bayberry Lane plus a major restoration of the bridge over the Saugatuck River.

Cherpak said that when the Merritt opened June 29, 1938, it carried about 18,000 cars daily, traveling at top speeds of 45 mph. Today, 80,000 vehicles travel the 37.5-mile parkway and speeds average 75 mph, he said.

“The department realized that it needed to be upgraded to meet modern demands,” Cherpak said.

He said that parkway improvements have already taken place in Greenwich, and that a 6.5-mile stretch of construction is currently underway from Stamford to New Canaan. CDOT officials said that when the Westport section is completed within three years after it begins, 82 percent of the Merritt Parkway would be upgraded.

WestportNow.com Image
The Merritt Parkway bridge over Easton Road is one of six Merritt bridges in Westport due for repairs. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Among the improvements planned are: resurfacing the roadway; installing new drainage; widening the existing right shoulders to 8 feet, consisting of a 4-foot paved shoulder and a 4-foot grass shoulder; removing rock ledges within recommended clear zones; and installing a slip-lined curb and gutter system along the median for drainage and delineation.

“And there’s a conscious effort to maximize the planted medium wherever possible,” Cherpak said.

David Gruttadauria, bridge engineer, talked about the urgent need to restore the Newtown Turnpike Bridge due to deterioration that could lead to capstone and fascia falling hazards.

“The capstones are compromised; it’s like a house without a roof,” he said. “We found that the concrete core was in rough condition. For a bridge to deteriorate that rapidly in eight years (since its last inspection) is of concern.”

The Saugatuck River Bridge is in bad shape, too, with extensive steel deterioration due to leaking joints, according to the CDOT.

This restoration alone accounts for $12 million of the overall project’s cost, said Cherpak. The project will involve the demolition and reconstruction of the parapet and installing a two-tube rail system in front of the balustrade parapet, according to the CDOT.

At tonight’s public information session Marpe said he was concerned about the effects of several CDOT projects happening at the same time.

In addition to the problem-plagued North Avenue bridge project, he cited the recent CDOT public forum two weeks ago on its plans to restore I-95 bridges in the Saugatuck section of town (see WestportNow Jan. 13, 2016), plus the CDOT’s scheduled plan this spring to rework the troubled intersection of Main Street, Clinton Avenue and Compo Road North. (See WestportNow Dec. 8, 2015)

“It’s important that the town address some of the concerns members of the community have; there’s a certain lack of confidence in the estimate of time, and there’s the conflict of time with other projects,” Marpe said.

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Posted 01/27/16 at 09:50 PM  Permalink



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