Category Archives: Transportation

Friday Flashback #119

The William F. Cribari Bridge has been in the headlines lately.

For one thing, its future — replace? repair? rehabilitate? — is very much up for debate.

For another, it’s the holiday season — when Al’s Angels’ lovely lights bring smiles to everyone who crosses the span. Even if they’re stuck in traffic on it.

Color photography had not yet been invented in 1910 — the year this “colorized” photo may have been taken.

But the bridge was already more than 20 years old.

And William F. Cribari — the cop who spent years directing traffic at the west end of the bridge, and for whom it was named after his death in 2007, age 88 — had not yet been born.

(Photo courtesy of Seth Schachter)

NOTE: The postcard calls it a “draw bridge.” The Cribari Bridge is, of course, a swing bridge.

Mark Kramer: A View From The Bridge

Mark Kramer spent 3 decades as a writer-in residence at Smith College, Boston University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He also enjoyed a storied career as a book and magazine writer, editor, speaker and consultant.

Mark has not lived in Westport since graduating from Staples High School in 1961. But — as an alert “06880” reader — he notes from afar that “the Saugatuck (Cribari) Bridge is threatened by traffic and time.”

It meant a lot to his childhood — and the town. Mark also has an idea for the bridge’s future. He writes:

I fished from that bridge in the 1950s. I loved watching the crew of volunteers (including John Santella from his dad’s barber shop), Paul Nette from Bridge Garage, and a few firemen from the nearly adjacent firehouse answer the call to pivot it open.

They appeared with a giant wrench — a waist-high T of iron, shaped like 3-pins of the traditional lug wrench that came in auto tool kits.

They stuck the socket into an embedded peg in the center of the bridge, and leaned into the crosspieces of the wrench. Slowly the massive bridge swung parallel to the river, a sailboat or two passed under, they swung it closed again and walked back to work.

Hand cranking the “Bridge Street Bridge,” back in the day.

People crossed the walkway for the pleasure of the view from midstream. They probably still do.

There’s an example of bridge preservation, connecting the twin towns of Shelburne Falls and Buckland, Massachusetts — not far from Smith College — that might be a feasible way for Saugatuck to go.

The “Bridge of Flowers” has had a big part in invigorating the commercial life of the twin towns, which has seen craft workshops and good restaurants come, along with scads of tourists on weekends.

After the local trolley quit, its bridge was long neglected. Then a local committee, led by a visionary real estate woman, raised some minimal funds, turned out lots of volunteer help, and turned it into a 3-season amazement, a walkers’ bridge bulging with horticultural wonders.

The “Bridge of Flowers.”

Now active committees, and perhaps a paid employee or two, keep flowers planted and flowing. It is a community-binding wonder, defying time and making folks happy.

Meanwhile, a new bridge across the Deerfield serves traffic a few hundred yards upstream.

I lived a town away for years, and my perspective on the Bridge of Flowers shifted.

At first it was a great place to bring the in-laws. But then I aged enough so the neighborly generosity that made it happen came into view.

The visitors’ book at the Buckland end of the bridge fills daily with thanks from  people who drive there, and walk the bridge. Many stop for lunch or supper, and browse the shops selling ice cream, used books, ceramics and paintings — a good sort of tourism to draw.

Mark hopes Westporters will look into the idea of a Bridge of Flowers — with a new bridge built nearby. Click here for the Bridge of Flowers website. For more information and personal insights, email Mark directly: kramernarrative@gmail.com.

 

Pic Of The Day #595

After an all-night work session by Al’s Angels volunteers beginning just before midnight Sunday, the William F. Cribari Bridge once again lights up the holidays. (Photo/JD Dworkow)

Electric Car Dealer May Still Move Into Dragone

Yesterday, “06880” reported that Carvana — the online used car dealer — is moving into the space vacated last spring by Dragone Classic Motorworks.

Though the Planning & Zoning Commission recently passed a text amendment allowing an electric car dealership on the property — provided it remediated all the oil, chemicals and other contaminants there — Carvana would not have to do that. As a non-electric car dealer, the text amendment does not apply.

However, Carvana is only a temporary tenant.

According to a letter sent by David Ross of 176 PRW LLC — the owner of the 176 Post Road West property, diagonally across from Kings Highway Elementary School — to Mary Young, P&Z director, he and his company are “strong advocates” for electric vehicles.

In fact, he says, he’s been involved in their development since 2005. In 2013 he bought an EV, joined the Westport Electric Car Club, and began working to bring an EV facility to Westport. That’s when he first eyed the Dragone site.

“We acquired the property and the lease at 176 with the sole purpose of bringing an EVAD (electric vehicle auto dealership) to Westport,” he writes.

“We believe it would be great for Westport and help the other properties on Post Road West flourish.”

However, he adds, “there are a lot of moving parts in this process, and we are just clearing one hurdle at a time. The EVAD would not commit until we had a site. Thus we took a big risk and purchased the site. We now need zoning approval so our chances to get the EV company can increase significantly.”

Some factors, Ross says, “are beyond our control. The EV company has corporate and legislative hurdles they are working hard to clear. But without the approvals our chances drop to zero.”

The former Dragone property, and its neighbor, on Post Road West.

Ross says that Carvana would be a short-term tenant. 176 PRW is making a business decision “to cover costs, while the EV company works out their challenges.”

Ross has hired a development team to work on the long-term plan, with a “major EV company.”

So there may well be an electric car dealer on Post Road West.

And — according to the P&Z text amendment approved earlier this month — they would clean up the site, contaminated by years of use by regular ol’ gas-powered car dealers.

Coming Soon: Carvana

Remember that text amendment the Planning & Zoning Commission passed a couple of weeks ago? You know, the one that would have permitted an electric car dealer on the site of the former Dragone Classic Motorcars — provided they remediated the soil, and fixed the rest of the property that was filled with oils and chemicals, after decades of use by old-fashioned car dealers.

An Alfa Romeo, outside the former Dragone Classic Motorworks showroom in Westport.

Turns out, the new tenant could be Carvana.

That’s the Arizona-based, 6-year-old used car dealer that sells entirely online. Customers search for, finance and trade in their old vehicles all through the website. They can inspect any vehicle — inside and out — with 360-degree views.

Carvana offers nationwide delivery, or the option to pick up a vehicle at one of their “car vending machine locations.”

So it appears there won’t be an electric car dealer on Post Road West after all.

Instead, there will be a used car dealer.

And because a text amendment is not required for one regular automobile dealership to replace another, there’s no requirement for Carvana to clean up the site — opposite Kings Highway Elementary School — at all.

Light Up The Bridge!

Westporters may be in the dark about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge.

But during the holiday season, the historic span glows with festive lights. Driving across the Saugatuck River — surrounded by colors — is one of our town’s magical moments.

It doesn’t just happen, though. The lights need maintenance. In the past year, they suffered severe damage.

Thankfully, Al’s Angels — the volunteer organization that does so much for needy kids and families — is on the case.

The Cribari Bridge at Christmastime. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

This Saturday night (December 1), they’ll replace the lights. Work begins at 11 p.m.

They need 24 volunteers. They ask helpers to bring their own 10-foot ladder or bucket truck. And cutting pliers.

It’s a big job. The trees and walkway side of the bridge will be decorated first. At 2 a.m. Sunday they’ll work overhead, then finish on the other side.

Al’s Angels supplies all the lights and snap ties. They just need folks who want to keep Westport’s bridge tradition alive — and are willing to work.

If you’re in, email adiguido@yahoo.com.

And dress warmly!

Pic Of The Day #589

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is currently examining options for the rehabilitation or replacement of the William F. Cribari Bridge, over the Saugatuck River in Westport.

If they are paying the same attention to detail there as when they proofread their road signs, we’re in big trouble.

The Fallen Heroes (NOT “Heros”) Memorial Highway runs from the intersection of Route 136 and Route 33 through Wilton to the Ridgefield town line. This photo was taken on Saugatuck Avenue, just north of the I-95 Exit 17 interchange. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)

Cribari Bridge Committee Moving Forward

It’s the holiday season — time for lights to shine on the William F. Cribari Bridge.

The bridge has been out of the spotlight recently. But plans to rehabilitate — or replace — the 133-year-old swing span are humming along.

The Cribari Bridge Project Advisory Committee meets tomorrow (Wednesday, November 28, 6:30 p.m.) at Town Hall.

On the agenda: 2 plans.

One shows a “rehabilitation” concept. It would add 4 feet to the present height of 21 feet, 3 inches.

A “replacement” plan shows a 38-foot high bridge. It would be widened too — from 21 feet to 32 feet.

A rendering of the replacement bridge.

The published agenda includes a rendering of a temporary span, to be used while the bridge is worked on. A similar structure was built during the last major renovation, 30 years ago.

A temporary span would be built just north of the current bridge.

Pics Of The Day #585

First, the mystery message on the Post Road Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge read “Vote.” A new message popped up a few nights ago.

Here’s a tighter view. If you still can’t see, it reads “Thanks = Giving.” (Photo/Mark Yurkiw)

Lots Of Shoppers

With little fanfare, the new Elm Street parking lot is now open.

It’s next to Bedford Square — on the site of the former Villa del Sol restaurant.

It — and every other downtown lot — was packed today. Already, drivers are ignoring arrows and roaring the wrong way through it.

Meanwhile, temperatures rose from yesterday’s record-setting lows, and Westporters shrugged off the stock market’s lows.

Downtown was jammed, with shoppers seeking Black Friday bargains. The holiday season — the longest possible, as Thanksgiving came on the earliest possible date — is off to a strong start.