Monday, September 26, 2022

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Local Historic Designation Eyed for Bridge

Westport’s Bridge Street Bridge spanning the Saugatuck River came a step closer Wednesday night to designation as a local historic property.

WestportNow.com Image
The William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge during a recent opening. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

The Representative Town Meeting’s (RTM) Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Committee voted unanimously on a request from the Historic District Commission (HDC) to act as the study committee for the bridge’s possible designation. The matter will now go to the full RTM on Tuesday.

The request had the full support of First Selectman Jim Marpe.

The 1884-built structure officially named the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge is Connecticut’s oldest, surviving moveable, hand-cranked swing bridge and is already on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) study almost a year ago, however, found the state-owned Route 136 bridge to be “severely deficient” and among the state’s most dangerous, touching off further studies and meetings with Marpe and CDOT engineers throughout the summer.

In his recently disclosed discussions with the state, Marpe said he has remained firm that the bridge’s rehabilitation be made in concert with his historic character and that it not be replaced by a modern span.

“You might be surprised, but I fully support the HDC’s request to become the study committee to pursue historic designation of the bridge,” said Marpe. “The bridge protects the character of the community.

“A new bridge could take on qualities that we may not want,” he added. “We should build a case for rehabilitation.”

Matthew Mandell, chairman of the P&Z Committee, said that in addition to preserving history, a major consideration was the narrow bridge not being accessible to large trucks, keeping truck traffic, looking for a shortcut, off local roads in the Green’s Farms area.

“We don’t want Green’s Farms Road to become a service road for I-95,” said Mandell.

5 thoughts on “Local Historic Designation Eyed for Bridge

  1. It is important to maintain the Cribari Bridge in its current form and scale. 

    Rehabilitative maintenance is one thing; reconstruction with expansion is another.

    All involved town bodies should take a firm stand to protect the town’s historic structures as well as the character of its residential neighborhoods, including the long-time residential area (with many old houses) along Bridge Street.

    Thanks to the members of the RTM P&Z Committee for supporting the historic nature of the Cribari Bridge.

  2. I hope they fix the kink at the end of the bridge on the east side.  Here the roadway takes a 20 degree turn effectively narrowing the roadway.  If you have ever driven over the bridge towing a trailer you know what I mean.

  3. Dick,

    Your idea about a speed limit sounds interesting.  Prominently placed signs both approaching and on the bridge could be part of that. 

    Long lines of traffic avoiding tie-ups on I-95 snake through the streets between Exits 17 and 18 (or 18 and 17) on a regular basis. (Perhaps you don’t see it as much as those who live in the neighborhoods on the western side of town.) The town does not need to encourage this by way of infrastructure changes that would make its streets more inviting to more and larger vehicles.

    While there already is a right-turn lane on the west side of the bridge, why couldn’t a second and wider right-turn lane could be created next to it, if deemed necessary?  This would certainly achieve the goal with much ease and far less expense than by widening the entire bridge.

    We need citizens and representatives who attend not only to their own neighborhoods, but also to the town as a whole.  They should be commended.  Given your many long years of public service, I am sure that you would agree!

    Judy

  4. Preserving an inadequate bridge to keep traffic out of the Greens Farms area is a non sequitur. No large east-bound trucks are going to barrel off Exit 17, go through three Charles Streets lights, make a left on on Riverside Avenue and then a right at the next light to cross the bridge and then wait at still another light at Compo Road South just to avoid I-95. Greens Farms Road has enough traffic right now, both east- and west-bound, without trying to say that preserving the bridge keeps it from getting worse.

    The real problem with this narrow bridge is the westbound flow. Vehicles wanting to turn right on to Riverside Avenue at the light back up because the right-turn lane is much too short. A new bridge with two lanes running westbound would alleviate the problem.

    Perhaps if RTM District 5 reps would focus on their district instead of fussing about this bridge, Greens Farms Road might get some relief, though I don’ t know what will work other than speed humps and more stops signs from Hillspoint Road to Bulkley Avenue South and,of course,better speed monitoring. But do something! Meanwhile,as far as the bridge is concerned,yes save it,but move it to a more hospitable location like the Imperial Lot to link that lot with the Library/Levitt lot or as a pedestrian bridge across the Saugatuck,north of the Route1 bridge.

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