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Tag Archives: Bridge Street Bridge
Now we know the holiday season is really here.
The lights are lit on the William Cribari Bridge.
Al’s Angels’ gift to Westport won’t make the traffic flow more smoothly over the Saugatuck River. In fact, this time of year it’s heavier than ever.
But if you’re going to be stuck there, it’s a beautiful place to be.
If you’re sitting in a line of cars while the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge slooooowly opens and just as slooooowly closes, letting a boat pass underneath, you’re probably not a big fan of the 133-year-old, last-of-its-kind-in-the-country span.
But if you’re strolling around on a lazy Sunday morning, the longtime ritual can be almost magical.
That’s what happened last weekend. Jonathan Kaner was filming a campaign video for 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He saw 3 men fishing on the banks of the Saugatuck River.
Suddenly, a police officer came by. The men greeted him.
Turns out, they’re the bridge opening crew. They were there to allow a small boat to go by.
Kaner’s tripod was already set up. He filmed the bridge opening and closing.
It took awhile, of course. So he sped up the video — 8 times.
Except for the boat. It cruises underneath at normal speed.
“06880” readers were cranking last Sunday.
We may not agree on what to call the span over the river: William Cribari Bridge? Bridge Street Bridge? Saugatuck Bridge?
But many folks instantly recognized last week’s photo challenge as the hand crank that once opened that multi-named bridge (and still does, if the motorized system fails).
Andy Kaplan, Peter Fulbright, Tom Erickson, David Sampson, Andrew Colabella (who also spotted the extension cord for Al’s Angels’ Christmas lights), Jay Tormey, Jonathan McClure, Joelle Malec, Seth Braunstein and Carmine Picarello all nailed it. To see Tom Feeley’s image, and read all the comments, click here.
This week’s challenge is harder.
If you know where in Westport you’d find this scene, click “Comments” below.
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.
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 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.”
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.
It’s been a while. It will be a while more. But Westporters are still talking about plans to “repeal and replace” the William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.
The subject is as controversial as ever.
But here’s one thing we can all agree on:
This photo from John Videler’s drone is magnificent.
After years of discussion, we’re no closer to a plan for renovating, remodeling, removing or just leaving in place the William Cribari (Bridge Street) bridge.
The last major work was done about 30 years ago. At the time, a temporary span was built just north of the structure.
If you were around then, you remember how well it worked. If you weren’t — well, here’s how it looked:
Mansion Clam House (now Parker Mansion) is at the extreme left, in the center of the photo. Bridge Street — hidden under a canopy of trees — is at the top. Ketchum Street — with its then-distinctive hump — is at the lower right.
And no — this is not fake news. This image was not Photoshopped!