Feds award $1.3M grant to build new Saugatuck bridge
The bridge to the Saugatuck Island community will be replaced with a $1.3 million federal grant, officials announced Tuesday.
The $1,302,225 "pre-disaster mitigation" grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will replace the wooden bridge on Harbor Road to the island with "one that can serve ambulances and first responders during the event of a future storm," according to a joint announcement from U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
The 50-year-old span was dislodged during Superstorm Sandy, leaving it impassable. The only other entrance to the neighborhood is a low road along the canal bank that is regularly submerged by high tides and during storms.
Superstorm Sandy "devastated much of our coastal communities. We are pleased to support such federal and state projects to better prepare for serious weather and ensure the safety of our people and sustainability of our region," the federal legislators added.
The FEMA grant will cover about 75 percent of the cost to remove the old bridge and build a new one, officials said.
First Selectman Jim Marpe, acknowledging the award, said, "This grant will ensure that our emergency responders have access to the island in the immediate aftermath of any future disaster and that the residents of Saugatuck Shores are assured of on-going safe passage to and from their homes."
Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury, who is also the town's emergency management director, and Town Engineer Peter Ratkiewich led the town's efforts to apply for this grant on behalf of the Saugatuck Island Taxing District, Marpe said. The application process began almost immediately after Superstorm Sandy.
"During high tides, and especially during severe storms like Sandy and Irene, our emergency vehicles can't use either entrance into Saugatuck Island," Kingsbury said in the announcement of the award. "In the case of a fire and strong winds, which occurred so devastatingly in New York during Sandy, many homes and residents would be at risk. This funding for a new bridge will make sure we can access the community during all times to keep our people and property safe."
Because of the environmental sensitivity of the Saugatuck Island area, officials said an extensive design and permitting process remains before construction can start.
As a result, they estimate completion of the new bridge may take up to two years.