Tag Archives: William F. Cribari Bridge

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)

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!

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.

Friday Flashback #105

In the incessant — but very important — debate over the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge, references are often made to the previous renovation, about 30 years ago.

At that time, a temporary span was constructed just north of the permanent one.

It took out a small gas station next to Mansion Clam House (now Parker Mansion). But it was — surprisingly — graceful, efficient, even loved.

Many Westporters wondered: Why don’t we just keep it?

It was a good question. And alert “06880” reader Ken Bernhard, who remembers it fondly, has another one: Was it made of wood?

If you know — or if you have any other memories of the Brigadoon-like Saugatuck River bridge — click “Comments” below.

Pic Of The Day #485

Night work on the William F. Cribari Bridge (Photo/Ward French)

Larry Weisman: State Can Prohibit Trucks From Cribari Bridge

Larry Weisman has followed the recent controversy over the William F. Cribari Bridge with interest.

The longtime Westporter reads “068880” comments too. One in particular drew his attention.

A preservation-minded reader referred to ‘’the statute’’ that controls the authority of the Connecticut Department of Transportation to prohibit truck traffic on a state highway.

Without quoting the statute, the commenter implied that it supports his argument for preservation as the only (or best) way to limit truck traffic on the bridge.

Weisman — an attorney — went to work. He found what he believes is the law: Section 14-298 of the Connecticut GeneraI Statutes.

Based on his reading — and in part on a successful campaign in Darien to ban trucks near I-95 — Weisman believes that the statute clearly allows the DOT to prohibit truck traffic under the same circumstances prevailing at the Cribari Bridge: “for the protection and safety of the public” whenever the route is “geographically located so that it could be utilized as a through truck route.”

Weisman found that among the physical characteristics to be assessed in determining whether the protection and safety of the public is at risk are: “road width and configuration, sight line restrictions, roadside character and development, number and character of intersecting streets and highways, traffic control devices, volume and character of traffic, and established speed limits.’’

I-95 is just out of this aerial view. According to Larry Weisman, Connecticut Department of Transportation regulations can prohibit through truck traffic on even a newly remodeled Cribari Bridge.

“Not only is there nothing here that would prevent prohibition of trucks on that portion of Route 136 which utilizes the bridge,” Weisman says, “but the bridge meets almost every criterion for such a prohibition and the statute effectively counters the argument that retaining our substandard bridge is the best (or only) way to address the issue.”

Click here for Connecticut DOT’s “Through Truck Prohibitions” page.

Friday Flashback #99

The William F. Cribari bridge is all over the news. Plans are meandering and/or plowing ahead for reconstruction. Meanwhile, emergency repairs will begin soon.

And there’s a brouhaha over the recent spate of rush hour closings, in order to accommodate a boat moored just north of the swing span.

A discussion rages in the “06880” comments section: Is the 136-year-old bridge historic? Or just old?

You be the judge. This photo — sent by Carmine Picarello — comes from Eve Potts’ great book, “Westport…A Special Place.”

We’re not sure what the future holds. But whatever a renovated or new bridge looks like, one thing is sure.

It won’t have trolley tracks.

More Closings For Cribari Bridge

Town officials have been notified by the state Department of Transportation that an inspection several weeks ago revealed structural deficiencies in both the substructure and ornamental truss structure of the William F. Cribari Bridge.

ConnDOT says that immediate repairs are necessary to maintain “the continued safety and stability of the existing bridge structure.”

Repairs begin on July 30. The tentative schedule calls for 6 weeks of work — weather permitting.

The contractor will work between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., Mondays through Fridays. The bridge and sidewalk will be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Marine traffic requiring bridge openings may be limited during work periods.

ConnDOT will continue to focus on the longer term future of the Cribari Bridge.  As previously announced, their Project Advisory Committee meets tonight (Wednesday, July 18, 6:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).

The historic, controversial and soon to be worked-on William F. Cribari Bridge. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)