Surprise! Merritt Parkway North Avenue Bridge Repairs Taking Longer Than Expected

In what is definitely not stop-the-presses news, “06880” has learned that when school opens August 27, all of North Avenue will not — as had been promised — be open to all traffic. It’s been closed since June near the Merritt Parkway, where bridge reconstruction is taking place. Detours — to Weston Road or Bayberry Lane — are required.

The major thoroughfare — home to 4 of Westport’s 8 schools — will have a stopgap measure. One lane will be open, with traffic flowing in alternate directions.

The Merritt Parkway  North Avenue bridge, before reconstruction.

The Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge, before reconstruction.

In response to a query by “06880,” town operations director Dewey Loselle says:

The state Department of Transportation has run into unexpected issues with the extent of bridge deterioration discovered, which is making their repairs more extensive and taking more time than had been anticipated. The original timetable had them being able to finish the project by September based on the conditions known at the time.

With the opening of school approaching we have been working closely with DOT on the issue. We have told them that the current  detour routes are not viable alternatives for our buses, and not having access to the bridge would cause serious and unacceptable disruption to our school bus schedules, likely causing severe delays of students arriving at schools.

Another view of the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge.

Another view of the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge.

DOT has listened to our concerns and has repair crews working around the clock on the bridge work.  The current plan is for enough of the repairs to have been made so that we can safely have 1 lane open on the start of school on August 27th. We would also have police officers at each end of the bridge, facilitating traffic during the morning and evening rush hours by alternating the traffic flows. This way school buses, parents transporting children to school and commuters will all be able to cross the bridge, hopefully with minimal delay.

The bridge will still be closed at night so they can work on the final repairs more expeditiously. DOT is still working out the final details, but this is the plan. Yes, the bridge will not be totally finished, but having 1 lane access with police traffic direction will be a big improvement over the current situation, and much better than the alternative of having to rely on the detours. We are hoping that this will keep school bus delays to a minimum.

“06880” has learned that the police will be paid by the contractor — who will then apparently be reimbursed by the state. It also seems that the one-lane situation will last through mid-October.

The contractor — of course, the low bidder — has a disincentive clause in the contract for not having the bridge open by mid-August. Is half-open actually “open”?

Let the negotiations begin.

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2 responses to “Surprise! Merritt Parkway North Avenue Bridge Repairs Taking Longer Than Expected

  1. Joyce Barnhart

    Considering the age of the Merritt bridges it’s no surprise that they found more deterioration than expected. I think one important factor in using the bridge once school opens is “parents transporting children to school”. Whenever possible, children should be on the bus anyway, and now it’s even more important. I hope the families on these routes will receive notices encouraging them not to drive their kids when the bus is an alternative.

  2. I agree with Joyce. We live just off North Ave.and know how important it is to get to school on time. Can the Westport police have check points and reroute students who drive themselves to follow the detours so our buses can get through. Maybe this inconvenience for them will encourage them to take the bus or leave a bit earlier.