Yesterday afternoon, First Selectman Jim Marpe issued a statement regarding the 131-year-old Bridge Street (William Cribari) Bridge project.
Describing a July 8 meeting involving his office; the Police, Public Works/Engineering Departments, and the state Department of Transportation, and a follow-up conference call the next month with town officials; the Westport Historic District Commission chairman and staff, the DOT, and the State Historic Preservation Office, Marpe said:
I emphasized the importance of retaining the iconic aspects of the bridge’s clearly defined superstructure along with its role in the history of the Saugatuck community. The superstructure also plays an important role in limiting the type and speed of traffic that can travel through the Saugatuck neighborhood, on Bridge Street and Greens Farms Road, and that it serves as a source of traditional holiday decoration for the entire area thanks to the efforts of Al’s Angels.
I was gratified to know that the state was aware of the bridge’s historic importance to the town and had included this important aspect at the onset of its planning efforts.
Marpe said he was also pleased that the DOT assigned Mark McMillian, an architectural historian and National Register specialist, to its project team.
Marpe said that the state is in preliminary stages of a Rehabilitation Study Report. It will take 6 months, and is being performed by a bridge consultant. When complete, the report will detail the conditions, problems, issues, severity, costs and potential options for rehabilitation. There will be public hearings and presentations, as well as ample opportunity for public review and comment.
According to Marpe, discussions so far suggest that the bridge has major problems. These may include severe structural deficiencies; functional obsolescence; major traffic safety problems, and issues with abutments, the truss and the underside of the bridge.
As I informed a number of the town’s elected officials last week, the safety of the bridge and the people who use it as well as the related impact of bridge traffic on the safety of Westport neighborhoods are my primary concerns.
At the same time, I am very sensitive to the historic aspects of this iconic bridge and its significance to many Westporters. I am satisfied that the state understands and is seriously taking these concerns into consideration. I will continue to encourage the state to develop recommendations that balance long-term safety improvements with the need to preserve an important part of Westport’s history.
I urge all Westporters to keep an open mind on the future of the bridge and to wait until we receive the completed engineering findings and facts of the state’s report before reaching conclusions devoid of information.
At this time, no plans of any kind have been suggested by the DOT with regard to what the rehabilitation/replacement options might be. We have been assured by the DOT that a variety of rehabilitation options will be studied. Finally, it is important to note that in current discussions there have been no proposals for construction of a 4-lane bridge as some have mentioned.