Westport: Repairs coming soon for Cribari Bridge
WESTPORT — The creaky Cribari Bridge, the oldest movable span bridge in Connecticut, will be getting some attention.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation has informed Town Hall that the bridge has failed its last inspection and that “immediate repairs” are needed. The Cribari Bridge carries Route 134 over the Saugatuck River; it’s also known by most Westporters as the Bridge Street Bridge.
The bridge was erected when Chester A. Arthur was president and it has been the scene of numerous minor accidents over the years, according to state DOT reports.
The DOT says that during an inspection several weeks ago, “structural deficiencies were discovered both in the substructure and ornamental truss structure.”
The DOT says that work to repair the deficiencies will begin on July 30, and will take about six weeks to complete. Most of the work will take place between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., closing it to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic during those hours. Also, marine traffic requiring bridge openings “may be limited” during the work periods.
This is just a repair. A complete overhaul would take 2.5 to 3 years and would require closure of the span, officials say, necessitating the construction of a temporary span.
Last spring, the DOT placed a 20-ton weight restriction on the span, meaning that some fire trucks can't get across.
The Cribari Bridge
Source: Connecticut Dept. of Transportation
The bridge has caused more than its share of hand-wringing over the decades. The DOT says that its shortcomings are manifold. It’s too narrow. It can’t take today’s traffic loads. Vehicles crash into each other because there’s no room. The guardrails are substandard. It can’t take a high wind. The electrical system gets flooded in tropical storms. The list is a long one.
In a 2016 DOT report, engineers suggested a complete replacement, costing $38 million. This, they note, would cost taxpayers about the same over the next 75 years as repeatedly repairing and rehabilitating the existing, substandard structure.
And a new bridge, they note, would be wider, safer and far more reliable. Also, although it’s part of the East Coast Greenway, it lacks a safe way for bicycles to cross over.
The bridge is named after police officer William F. Cribari (1918-2007), who directed traffic at the intersection of Riverside and Saugatuck avenues for years. Cribari, known to many as “Crowbar,” fought in the Battle of the Bulge under General George S. Patton in World War II. He also saw action in North Africa and Sicily. He was awarded seven battle stars, the Arrowhead Campaign Ribbon and several other citations and decorations.
Its iconic trusses are no longer necessary because when the bridge was rehabilitated in 1951, it was re-engineered to be supported from below. They remain there as a decorative feature. They’re festooned with colorful lights at Christmastime.