$40 million for Westport’s Cribari bridge turned down, again
WESTPORT — Funding to repair the town’s historic William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge has been turned down — again.
“I recognize it’s important to support the ongoing maintenance of the bridge and keep it in a good state of repair,” First Selectman Jim Marpe recently said at a South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting. “However, many Westport residents and I remain seriously concerned about the potential consequences of a major rehabilitation or replacement.”
Marpe similarly requested $40 million be removed from the State Transportation Improvement Program list in 2017. He said at the time the Department of Transportation had not completed an environmental impact study, nor clearly defined how it intended to rehabilitate the bridge.
SWRMPO again agreed to remove the funding after Marpe said the environmental study would not be seen until the spring of 2021.
“I’m not comfortable supporting the allocation of over $40 million in the proposed TIP to a possible solution that would be problematic for a significant portion of our population,” Marpe said. “I believe the time to consider the final design and construction costs will be after the environmental assessment is completed and we can assess how the real project reflects local needs and safety requirements.”
Kevin Nursick, a DOT spokesman, said the removal of the funds would not impact the environmental assessment because the preliminary design phase of the project — which includes the assessment’s development — was already previously accepted.
“Deletion of the project from next year’s STIP, however, could prevent the advancement of the final design phase of the project,” Nursick said.
But the decision to remove the funds sat well with town preservationists who look to maintain the historic structure. The swing bridge is more than 135 year old.
“Once again, Westporters rose up and let the Department of Transportation know how much the historic Cribari Bridge means to them,” the Westport Preservation Alliance said in an email. “Consequently, the October 15th vote - a vote that would have handed $40 million to the DOT long before the agency revealed what it intended to do to our bridge with that money - has now been temporarily withdrawn.”
However, other Westporters felt the decision was shortsighted.
Larry Weisman, a member of coalition for Westport, said he did not understand the rationale to turn down the funds.
“This is an important bridge because it leads to the railroad, it leads to Norwalk Hospital, and it leads to I-95,” Weisman said. “So it’s an important crossing and it needs to be done safe and in a way that is efficient that keeps the traffic flowing.”
He said some residents have raised concerns that if a new bridge was built, trucks would be able to come through the area.
“That’s a discussion you can have after the study has been made you don’t have to make that assumption now and turn down the money — it doesn’t make any sense,” Weisman said.
He said the town controls the approaches to the bridge with Imperial Avenue and Greens Farms Road. The town could prohibit through trucks on the town roads, or create a super structure on the bridge to keep trucks from crossing. If the funds had remained, the town would also still have input on the design process, he said.
“Nobody wants to see trucks, I don’t want to see trucks going through Saugatuck,” Weisman said. “It’s a problem that is easily addressed, but it’s only going to be addressed if we allow the study to continue.”