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Category Archives: Saugatuck
Everyone is talking about the William F. Cribari Bridge. That’s the official name of the historic 133-year-old swing span over the Saugatuck River. Yet many Westporters still use the old name: the Bridge Street Bridge.
That’s a shame.
William Cribari — or “Crobar,” as he was universally known in his native Saugatuck — was quite a guy.
He was a World War II vet. Serving under General George S. Patton, he took part in the invasions of Normandy, Sicily and North Africa. He also served in the Battle of the Bulge.
But that’s not why the bridge is named after him.
For more than 30 years, Cribari was a special police officer. He walked the beat on Main Street, and directed traffic at both the pre-light Riverside/Saugatuck Avenue intersection, and the Post Road by Kings Highway Elementary.
But that’s not why the bridge is named after him either.
His greatest fame came when he was shifted to Riverside Avenue, at the entrance to the Manero’s (now Rizzuto’s) parking lot.
There — with a smile, a theatrical wave and more than a few dance steps — he masterminded rush hour traffic through the heart of Saugatuck. Much of it went over the Bridge Street — now William F. Cribari — Bridge.
He was much more than a traffic cop, of course. Cribari’s full-time job was tool crib operator for Nash Engineering. He was a longtime Westport PAL volunteer, and a Knight of Columbus. He attended every Army-Navy football game from 1946 on.
At 12 years old he joined the Saugatuck Volunteer Fire Department as a snare drummer. He remained a life member.
More than 30 years later, he became drum major for both the Nash Engineering Band — marching every year in the Memorial Day parade — and the Port Chester American Legion Band.
In 2003, Cribari and his wife Olga were honored as grand marshals of Festival Italiano. That annual event was held in Luciano Park — not far from where he was born at home in 1918, and just around the corner from where generations of commuters learned to love Westport’s greatest traffic cop.
Cribari died on January 30, 2007, at 88.
A decade later his name lives on, through his namesake bridge.
Let’s all make sure his legend does too.
Yesterday’s statement by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — requesting that the state withdraw funding for final design and construction projects related to the William F. Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge — shined a spotlight on the 133-year-old span.
Along with the cannons and Minute Man monument, it’s one of Westport’s most treasured — and photographed — icons.
Here is another (video) view of the Saugatuck mainstay. It shows the swing bridge as it opens.
The time-lapse was shot last August by longtime Westporter Tom Feeley. He’s a proud Staples High School Class of 1987 graduate, and looks forward to this weekend’s 30th reunion. It’s set for the Saugatuck Rowing Club — right near the bridge.
Here’s another video from John Hartwell. It shows another bridge nearby — the Saugatuck railroad bridge. It too opens. This was shot in July 2015.
Despite Marpe’s statement, the next steps in the bridge’s long history have not yet been determined.
Moments ago, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe spoke to State Transportation Improvement Program officials.
For the first time, he explicitly asked them to remove funding for final design and construction projects related to the William Cribari (Bridge Street) bridge.
That throws the municipal government’s weight behind a strong citizens’ effort opposing major rehabilitation or replacement of the 133-year-old historic span.
Here are Marpe’s full remarks:
We recognize that it is important to support on-going maintenance of the bridge; to maintain it in a state of good repair, and that there are elements of the bridge that need some maintenance attention. However, my residents and I are seriously concerned about the potential consequences of a major rehabilitation or replacement.
- A significantly modified or reconstructed bridge will offer the opportunity for increased through traffic using this route as an attractive alternative when I-95 is backed-up. This introduces a major safety issue to our Saugatuck neighborhood as well as Green’s Farms Road as 18-wheel tractor trailers see the opportunity to use this route. Modifying, or replacing, the bridge so that it can accommodate trucks designed to travel our highways, and not our byways, will place pedestrians and cyclists who travel on surface roads such as Green’s Farms at greater risk of harm. This type of heavy commercial vehicular traffic is utterly incompatible with our suburban and residential community. In addition, this has the potential to add traffic and related pollution to our already congested neighborhood and frequently congested roadway.
- Secondly, the Cribari Bridge contributes to the historic character and culture of our Saugatuck neighborhood, which is undergoing a renaissance and revitalization if its own. The bridge itself is considered historic, but regardless, any significant change will have an impact on the preservation of one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Westport.
- Lastly, I cannot even contemplate supporting the set aside of $40 million in construction costs without a clearer understanding of the intentions of this project. As you noted, we are at least a year away from completing the Environmental Assessment. Until that has been completed and until the public has been heard, I cannot support the set aside of over $40 million for a project where we have no understanding of the scope and impact of the potential design.
To repeat, my fellow residents and I have many concerns about the possible change to the Saugatuck swing bridge that will come from these design efforts. They have the potential to impact traffic safety if additional traffic, particularly 18-wheel trucks, are allowed to be introduced to our local roadways that are also highly traveled bicycle and pedestrian routes in residential neighborhoods. An already congested neighborhood will become even more gridlocked. And a bridge whose historic look and feel has helped define the character of our historic Saugatuck neighborhood will be lost.
I ask that you remove the line items related to State Project No. 158-0214 from the proposed STIP. The time to consider the final design and construction costs should be after the Environmental Assessment is completed and we can assess the real project that reflects local needs and safety requirements.
I am prepared if necessary to vote “NO” on these line items at the MPO level, to instruct my Town Engineer to do so as well, and to encourage my fellow chief elected officers to do the same. Please spare us that process and debate and remove the line items until the Environmental Assessment is completed and we can fully understand the State’s intention for the bridge.