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Tag Archives: William Cribari Bridge
It’s one of the most well-known houses in Westport.
But it won’t be for long.
The small yellow cottage on Bridge Street — the first one past the William Cribari Bridge heading east — sports a “Demolition” notice on a nearby tree.
The 572-square-foot home was built in 1932.
No word on what will replace it.
Or where all those kayaks in the yard will go.
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.
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.”
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.
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!