BREAKING NEWS: Cribari Bridge Solution May Be At Hand

For years, the state Department of Transportation has pushed for a major renovation of the William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.

For just as long, Westporters and town officials have pushed back. They fear that modernizing and widening the 2-lane span over the Saugatuck River would draw traffic — including 18-wheelers — off I-95, whenever there is an accident or delay on the nearby highway.

A solution appears to have been found.

And it’s a creative one.

The William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

According to State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, the DOT is prepared to reroute Route 136. Right now, 136 includes North and South Compo Roads, and Bridge Street, through Saugatuck and on out to Saugatuck Avenue headed toward Norwalk.

Under the new plan, Route 136 would join the Post Road (also US1) at the North Compo intersection. It would head over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown, then go south on Riverside Avenue (also known as Route 33), and on toward Saugatuck Avenue.

Thus, the Cribari Bridge would no longer be a state road.

DOT has agreed to do repair work on the bridge — but not a major renovation.

When repairs are finished, DOT would hand the bridge over to the town. Westport would own it — and be responsible for ongoing and future maintenance.

The bridge and environs would no longer be Route 136.

The plan was described to a bipartisan group of state legislators from the area — Steinberg, State Senators Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang, and State Representative Gail Lavielle — by state DOT officials, including commissioner James Redeker. DOT wanted the legislators’ input, before presenting it to 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

[NOTE: An earlier version of this story described — based on a source — the meeting as a “negotiation.” It was an informational meeting only.]

“It’s not cost-free to the town,” Steinberg admits. “But once in a while we come up with creative solutions that work for everyone.”

He gives credit to the DOT. “If they weren’t on board, we’d still be battling this out,” Steinberg says.

Marpe notes, “The concept has just been presented to me. I’m working with my staff to understand the short-term and long-term implications — including finances and public safety — to the proposal. It’s certainly an alternative that needs to be seriously considered.”

63 responses to “BREAKING NEWS: Cribari Bridge Solution May Be At Hand

  1. Bart Shuldman

    More costs to Westport. Seems to be a standard line coming from Rep Steinberg.

    • John Hartwell

      Bart never misses an opportunity to bash Jonathan. Sad!

      • Bart Shuldman

        John-please-I just tell the truth. It is the truth that hurts! Did Rep Steinberg’s 8-30g work help or hurt Westport. Just an easy yes or no. Did Rep a steinberg just vote for the new labor deal that will probably cause higher property taxes in a westport? Will probably cause higher sales taxes in CT? Just an easy yes or no? Did Rep Steinberg vote for the new pension deal a few months back that will raise the state worker pension costs by $12 BILLION!!! Yes or no?

        John-it is horrible that every time there is a chance for Rep Steinberg to vote to support his constituents in Westport, he decides to support his leaders in Hartford instead.

        Just the facts John.

        Now we need to learn the facts of the bridge. One fact we already know, Westport will face higher costs to maintain the bridge. Just the facts.

        • John Hartwell

          Just the facts, Bart. There’s an innovative proposal on the table that might be a fix for the Cribari Bridge problem, which concerns us all greatly, and all you can do is bash Jonathan.

          Most people in Westport don’t want eighteen-wheelers rolling through Saugatuck and Greens Farms, and if offered the opportunity they might support taking on financial responsibility for the bridge. that’s the question on the table, not whatever you think is or isn’t happening in Hartford.

          • Bart Shuldman

            John-nice work not addressing my post. Not surprising.

            As for the benefit of this new proposal, I will wait to learn of the analysis. The last time Rep a steinberg said he did Westport a favor (and also said we need to move faster) was regarding the 8-30g revaluation. And we learned it hurt Westport more then helped.

            So I will wait.

      • Bart Shuldman

        John-one last comment-I will hope this agreement turns out to be good for Westport despite the increase in costs.

    • Enough of the bashing Bart, time for some new material.

    • John F. Suggs

      I just got off the phone with two of our State elected officials. They have assured me that there is no deal and no financial analysis has been prepared. Just an idea floated by DOT to save money – for the State. By the way, this sounds like the same offer that was rejected by the town in 1986. I agree with Bart that this means higher town costs – we’d also be on the hook for maintaining Compo South and Bridge Street.

      John F. Suggs
      RTM District 5

    • Matthew Mandell

      Are you kidding me bart???? Two things.

      1.why not chop on hwang, boucher and lavielle too? No??? Good none should be chopped on.

      2. This is a creative solution and all our state reps and senators should be congratulated for working together.

      While this may or may not work out it is a great possible solution. Thks for the hard work.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Matt-we will see what true benefit reveieced. If any at all. I stand by my comments about Arron steinberg and his ability to vote against his constituents in westport and the 8-30g debacle.

        If this turns out good for Westport I will be the first to say congrats to all 4.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Matt-I AM CALLING BS.

        This story is all wrong and we have to wonder why and who put it out. Here is what I know:

        Westport legislators did not work out or hammer out or negotiate anything. The DOT said they had an idea. Some questions were asked and that was it.

        There is no deal, no agreement, no nothing. Just an idea that came from DOT.

        Who leaked this story???? And why???

        • Dick Lowenstein

          Leaked this story? It emanated from the First Selectman’s office and was posted on the Town’s web site:

          • Actually, Dick, I had this story several hours before the press release and WestportNow.

            • Bart Shuldman

              Dan. Since all the ‘other’ legislators were surprised to see your post, other than Rep Steinberg, was this story given to you by him? Was Rep steinberg trying to ‘get ahead’ of this story and try take credit for it?

              Based on conversation with the another legislator , they are perplexed as to why the story came out especially the way it was written. The story speaks to costs for Westport but a creative solution for Westport. It appears that nobody knows any details and whether this is a creative solution for Westport or not. And as for the costs to Westport, I believe we will know more once somebody takes the time to gather the information and calculate the real cost to our town.

              What is going on?

          • Bart Shuldman

            “It’s not cost-free to the town,” Steinberg admits. “But once in a while we come up with creative solutions that work for everyone.”

            While Dan had to make changes to his first post, it does appear that there has been a rational response from Jim Marpe.

            I still stay with my comment about Rep Steinberg comment which is clearly stated in Dan woog’s quote….which is troubling at best.

            We now know this was a conversation without any commitment. Details and cost Ananth’s is is clearly needed to decide if this has any benefit to Westport

            But that is no where in Rep Steinberg’s quote. He speaks to the higher costs to Westport and a creative solution. REALLY?

  2. Congrats to all! The bridge is a Westport ICON. It is great that the state is paying for the repairs considering they are taking away our education funding and making us pay 1/3 of their underfunded entitlements. In the long term, the bridge will be very costly to maintain, but it really gives Westport its character. Now we need to figure out a better solution for the traffic .

  3. thumbs up- great job- awesome for westport

  4. Michael Calise

    This requires a real analysis.
    1. who will be responsible for Bridge Street?
    2. what will the increased traffic amount to over the US1 bridge
    3. what will the increased traffic amount to on Riverside Avenue
    4. What will be the short and long term costs of maintaining the bridge.
    In our current traffic situation the RSC bridge is often at a standstill.
    diverting traffic from Compo Road South to Riverside Avenue and the intersection at Wilton Road and Post Road West sounds risky given the problems we are experiencing at that intersection especially when you throw in the approved and more to come development on the West Bank. Its possible the State may have more up their sleeve than meets the eye. Jim Marpe is wise to realize that this deserves an in depth (perish the word) study

  5. This does not sound like much of a solution. We keep our historic bridge, at the expense of routing semis through town. If the highway is closed in the southbound direction trucks will have to make a right onto South Compo from Greens Farms and then a left onto the Post Road. After going through town, they will have to make the left from the Post Road onto Riverside. Both of these Post Road intersections are stressed with normal traffic. Forcing trucks to make these left turns will be a nightmare. I think bumper to bumper semis all the way down South Compo, all through town and then all down Riverside Ave will be even worse than routing them over an improved Cribari bridge. I heard that in some other CT towns, bridges like ours have been rebuilt with the same look, just resized to allow full size trucks. Wouldn’t that be a better way to go?

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      No, absolutely not! You must not live in this neighborhood if you think routing them through this area is a good idea. The roads are narrow and the turns are tight, and we’ve seen more than our share of trucks stuck under the RR bridges when they try to squeeze. Em-biggening the Cribari bridge to allow them under would only embolden them with the underpasses! There’s already been a teenage jogger who has been hit by a vehicle on Bridge Street, we don’t want more heavy traffic there to endanger the pedestrians in the area. There are no other intersections that are so stressed that they need a traffic officer every morning and evening like there is at the end of the bridge, you’re thinking the Post Road wouldn’t be more able to handle the traffic?

  6. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    Dear Politicians,
    Didn’t the Connecticut DOT have $40,000,000 set aside to replace or fully repair the Cribari Bridge.
    1) Have the Connecticut DOT repair it 100% then give it to Westport
    2) or give Westport the $40,000,000 and Westport will repair the bridge
    3) or put a sign at the North Compo and US 1 intersection saying ALL TRUCKS TAKE RT 1 WEST TO RT 33 NORTH OR SOUTH
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    • I’d have to agree. I’m all for preservation but at what cost. That’s a lot of money to just give up…

  7. So I would assume that the Town would take over all the maintenance for S. Compo Rd. and Bridge St. (plowing, paving etc.)?

  8. Andrew Colabella


  9. What the heck? There’s no deal. None at all. Somebody needs to explain.

  10. Marjorie Brous

    At last….just do it Jim…just do it!!!!!

  11. Oy vey…

  12. Bart Shuldman

    John-looks like another Rep Steinberg issue. There is no plan. There was no agreement with the legislators. There is. I Agreement with Westport.

    This statement by Rep Steinberg borders on the bizarre: “It’s not cost-free to the town,” Steinberg admits. “But once in a while we come up with creative solutions that work for everyone.”

    ‘We come up with a cr a tube solution’—who is we? The legislators did not suggest this. How does this work for everyone? What are the details that it appears nobody knows!!!!

    John-Rep Steinberg is no help to Westport and I will continue to point out how bad he truly is.

    You can hide behind the politics. I will stand out for Westport.

  13. Dick Lowenstein

    Finally, some bipartisan, creative thinking. Who knows where it will go, but it certainty deserves a serious look. If it is accepted, then Westport, and not the State, will be deciding the future of this bridge, what ever it should be. Will it cost money? Probably, but, hey, let’s raise private funds. Maybe the Westport Preservation Alliance members can contribute and even mount a campaign to raise additional funds.

    Consider this, too, the residents of Bridge Street and Compo Road South, who live on the State-designated so-called “scenic roadway” would now live on a town road, less than two miles long and perhaps with more reasonable speed limits than those currently dictated by the State. It would give the town more control over the light at Compo South and Greens Farms Road, and provide an impetus to impose no-through-trucking rules on Greens Farms Road from the western end of the bridge to the Fairfield town line.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Dick, my friend, there was no bipartisan ‘creative thinking’. DOT had an idea and that is it. Nobody supported it other than what appears to be Steinberg. Sad times for Westport when we have 2 major issues (8-30g and Cribari Bridge) that Westport residents have concern and this nonsense happens. 8-30g will now accelerate into a bigger issue for Westport as Steinberg told us to move after, and this DOT potential offer could have support from Steinberg without any details and support from the other legislators. All so crazy.

  14. Don’t have an opinion on what the best plan would be — but does ANY plan add lanes to this narrow bridge? Remember moving here in ’90-’91 and not understanding why the bridge was being rebuilt w/ the same 2 lanes.

  15. Bonnie Bradley

    OMG! What a tangled web……

  16. Judi Koffsky


  17. Trust me, if you were in a line of 30+ cars waiting to go from your house to the Y, you would think a wider bridge was an idea to consider….

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Plenty of us wait, and have waited for years and years. It’s preferable to me, because a multi-lane bridge isn’t going to fix the winding roads that it comes out on in Saugatuck, which is where the backup originates. It will just introduce bigger trucks into that mix. If you live in this area, you know the cyclists, the pedestrians, the joggers, the animal walkers, etc… that all populate the roads. They will be even more endangered than they already area. This isn’t OK.

  18. All this reminds me of the old joke about buying the Brooklyn Bridge. The plan as tendered seems like a bad dream. I can see the corner of 33 and Riverside with extra traffic of any kind…trucks…busses…cars….good luck with that. The Westport folks 25 years from now will love the financial load this plan foists on them when this old bridge needs major overhaul or replacement. $40 million now….maybe $80 million then. Yikes. Thanks Bart for being clear headed and practical!

  19. Fred Roberts

    Before everyone looses focus on the implications to this plan here are a few things to ponder:

    -Who in public works has any experience with the operation and maintenance of a 133 year old bridge?

    -The town will have to have several newly trained staff on call 24/7 to deal with the opening and closing of the bridge.

    -Unlike larger towns, Westport currently only has two traffic lights under the town’s control. Those just cost over a quarter million to replace. This new plan will now give the town 5 new intersections that will be due for replacement soon as well as their associated maintenance. In addition to the lights at the bridge, Ketchum, and firehouse.

    -Just because the road will not be a State road anymore doesn’t mean people will not use it. It will still be a public road.

    -The added cost for paving the roads once they become town controlled will be exobanant. The roads are in bad shape as it is today. We will be on the hook to restore them just like the traffic lights. The total new town roads is almlst 2 miles worth.

    -Any proposed intersection improvements along this route will now fall on the town to plan and fund.

    Just think about the big picture of this. The State would love to dump the costs to the town with their efforts to cut costs and burdens. Win-win for the State. We are the ones that stand to loose in the long run. The State has already cut back on aid to fund town projects across the state. Don’t assume we will get any assistance with the above mentioned issues.

  20. Bobbi Essagof

    Please don’t add any more traffic to the corner of Post and 33. That intersection is the most ridiculous one to begin with. Not to plat NIMBY but as an Old Hill resident, I don’t want any more 18 wheelers either.

  21. Bart Shuldman

    Despite Rep a Steinberg saying this is a creative solution-may I remind every westport tax payer of just 2 of the costly needs our town would now be responsible for:

    1) the bridge slides opens and closes a few times a day for boat traffic. This cost is covered by CT DOT. Should this change occur, Westport would not have to hire the additional personnel to manage this function

    2) This is a steel bridge that is in need of constant maintenance. Westport would have to hire a company or town employees to take over the maintenance of this costly endevour.

    There is more but I thought I would remind our friends and Neighbors in CT that there is serious costs coming to CT, including opening and closing the bridge, with what Rep Steinberg said was a creative solution.

    • Bart, does it really open and close “a few times a day” for boat traffic?

      • Com’n Dan, it’s fake news. 🙂

      • Bart Shuldman

        Dan. Thanks for asking me to clarify my statement about the opening and closing of the bridge. It’s a good and fair question.

        In the summer any boat with a mast that needs to go to the marinas after the bridge cause the opening and closing. Sometimes it can be 2 to 3 times a day, mainly on weekends. Clearly this happens much more in the summer than the winter.

        In addition, any construction that needs a boat to bring in material to homes on the river will probably cause the bridge to open and close. I also hear that the Black duck is strong sewers and do not know the construction that will be needed up river that could cause the bridge to open.

        In any case, Westport would be required to hire the necessary people to perform the work.

        Hope this help with my previous post.

        The opening and closing of the bridge is very labor intensive from what I have learned, and there also needs to be other people at the ends of the bridge to stop traffic. Each person who is needed will come from either the town payroll or a company hired by westport to perform the work that was paid by the state.

        • Elizabeth Thibault

          As someone who lives right around the corner from this bridge, I can promise you that even in the height of summer months, it does NOT open several times a day on the weekends. There’s a placard that instructs boaters that they need to call ahead to schedule an opening. In the 14 years I have lived in the neighborhood, there’s been exactly 2 times, *2*, that I have been caught unexpectedly waiting on the bridge. Once was indeed this summer, as I ran to the Dunkin’ at Bridge Square. Many boat owners with any kind of draft know they won’t make up up the river, because even with the high tides, you have to stay within the channel. Any boat with a mast has a big keel belowdecks. The vast majority of these boats are moored down in the bay or beyond. To try and make the opening of the bridge an issue in this is making a mountain out of an anthill. You can say we want avoid the financials of this, but the opening of the bridge isn’t a huge aspect of the cost of operations here.

          • Bart Shuldman

            Elizabeth. I appreciate your position on the costs of opening and closing the bridge. As we know, Westport relies on DOT to have the people and to cover the costs.

            Maybe it does not bother you that the town will need to spend this money going forward. Maybe it does not bother you that the maintenenace of an old bridge will now be the responsibility of Westport. But this resident of Westport is worried by this potential decision, given Westport just lost all funds for our schools from Hartford, and Westport could be forced to pay millions and millions of dollars towards the Teachers pension plan as Governor Malloy shove these costs to towns and cities.

            I await the full analysis. Ant hillls tend to turn into bigger hills that have destructive impacts.

            • Elizabeth Thibault

              I’m all for a full analysis of the total costs, but we can’t fear monger about certain aspects of the running of the bridge that are minute. They take away from the overall credibility of your argument. This is an anthill, and keeping it in perspective while presenting the whole of the story is important.

  22. Don L Bergmann

    Clearly there are questions to be addressed and I expect Jim Marpe and his team, engaging with the CT DOT and our State legislators, will make thoughtful and sensible judgments. I am also confident our candidates for First Selectman will weigh in, particularly Melissa Katz Kane. John Suggs has expressed a view above which I would characterize as rather negative. My sense is the concept deserves more analysis and facts before a judgment should be reached.
    Don Bergmann

    • Bart Shuldman

      Tom-I thought and read that our own State Rep Steinberg said this was a ‘creative solution that works for everybody’. I guess not.

      And the attached statement left out the costs to Ma Ira in and manage the bridge which opens and closes a few times a day.

      Just like the 8-30g debacle, Rep Steinberg hurts Westport instead of helping the town. When will we all learn and remember during the election.

      • I for sure will. BTW your autocomplete makes for a lotta fun figuring out the real words 😄😄😄

        • Bart Shuldman

          I easily admit my spelling and lack of spell check needs much work. But glad you find it funny. Some have made other types of comments.

          And thanks for understanding my points. I find this all very troubling as we watch The City of Hartford explore bankruptcy, the State of CT budget in a massive $5.2 BILLION deficit, state cuts to education to towns and cities, social programs being cut, and all this happeninnwith votes by Rep Steinberg that has not helped Westport and not helped FIX THE PROBLEM.

          CT is in a serious Financial Death Spiral. Does not surprise me that DOT wants to hand off to Westport an old, decaying metal bridge. What better way to shift the cost burden to Westport and away from the state. Maybe someone at DOT will get a bonus if they pull that off. Remember, Steinberg is in the transportation committee.

          So concerning!!!

  23. FYI, the truckers aren’t fond of tiny streets and navigating them. They still use CB radios to let each other know of problems and the easiest way to get around them. They also have GPS units that have settings so that they are routed around no truck roads and bridges that are too low. If you have a portable GPS (Garmin/Tom-Tom/Magellan, etc.) you can go into settings to filter in those exclusions. Those same units have traffic alerts and some will automaticlly re-route around problems. Lastly, for a trucker, time is money. They want the fastest way around traffic issues. I imagine those folks already head on to the Post Road if I-95 is a mess (yeah I know that’s redundant).

  24. In a bit of irony, we had a double whammy of accidents on I-95 both north and southbound. The Post Road was a bit of a mess. Both directions of the Cribari Bridge were slow and crowded too.

  25. If I my put in my tuppence — I think the rerouting of 136 is a great idea and would save the bridge, over which I frequently travel. However, wouldn’t it make more sense to have 136 go onto Saugatuck Avenue at the fork, rather than continuing on Riverside? Exit 17 is on Saugatuck. Also, having big trucks navigating those little streets around the station would be a nightmare.

    Unless, it’s already in the plans, and I missed it.

  26. Bart Shuldman

    I guess the bridge does get opened. Sad to know Rep Steinberg wants Westport tax payers to pay for this instead of the state:

  27. Linda Durakis

    Wow…so many comments already, I’m not sure if anyone will see mine. I’m a lifelong Westport resident and live in the beach area, so I use this bridge frequently. As cute as it is, it doesn’t function very well. I long for the days of the temporary bridge that was there for about a year(many years ago) during the last time this bridge was repaired. Traffic flowed much more smoothly when it was in place. I think it’s an awful idea to reroute traffic through downtown. Traffic is already horrendously backed up at the intersection of route 1 and Riverside Avenue. How are 18 wheelers supposed to make that tight turn?!!

  28. Saugatuck is a 2 lane Road. If expanded it would take land away from the value of the high end homes on Saugatuck Ave, let alone the noise and traffic. Doesn’t make sense to reroute truck traffic through a major residential area.