$2.47M bridge replacement approved by finance board
WESTPORT — The Board of Finance voted 6-0 with one abstention to approve a $2.47 million Kings Highway North Bridge replacement on Wednesday.
The bridge, which has been a cause of concern for some years, and was designated as “highly deteriorated” by the state Department of Transportation in 2016. The town has a commitment from the state for a 50% reimbursement under the State Local Bridge Program.
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“We’re ready to build this coming year if possible, and I think it’s urgent enough that I think we really need to get on this,” Public Works Director Pete Ratkiewich said.
Firetrucks, buses and plow trucks currently aren’t allowed on the bridge due to a 4-ton weight limit being imposed because of the deterioration. This is also one of 10 bridges that will need some form of repair in Westport, Ratkiewich said.
BL Companies engineers have been contracted to design the river stone-clad bridge, and are in the final design phase.
“As part of the design cost, we’re going to take those stones off the bridge, clean them, we’ll enhance those with additional river stone and the new bridge will look like a large form of the old bridge,” Ratkiewich said.
Bill Harris, chair of the Historic District Commission, said while the bridge is not in the historic district, there is still considerable interest in the site and asked that the Historic District Commission be more involved in the process going forward.
Some residents asked for a delay in the vote to allow for further conversations on the design and cost of the bridge.
Helen Garten, a Westport resident and former selectman, said the cost had previously been estimated at $500,000 in 2016.
“My suggestion is you should put this off because you should have a breakdown of the specifics of the cost,” Garten said. “It enables you to make decisions and it enables you to plan.”
Westporter John Suggs also asked for the finance board yo delay the vote to allow for more public input.
“There was one public meeting where they did not like what they were told and there was one HDC meeting in 2016, two years ago,” Suggs said. “They didn’t take any of the feedback. ... What I’m asking you to do is to hit the pause button.”
BOF member Sheri Gordon said she favored delaying the vote until the next meeting to get a breakdown of the costs. However, other members questioned what additional information could be provided by the next meeting.
“I don’t know what delaying is going to buy us,” BOF member Jay DesMarteau said. “If we had concrete questions we’re going to answer in 30 days I would be fine with it.”
Other members expressed concern with further postponing funds for the bridge.
“We got input and we listened to that input,” he said, referencing conversations his predecessor had with the community and former chair of the Historic District Commission. “We have to balance what the public wants with what we have to do.”
The funding request will appear before the Representative Town Meeting on Jan. 7.