Letter: Save the Bridge Street bridge
I was Westport’s first selectman from 1985 to 1989, the last time the state threatened to replace the Bridge Street bridge. My predecessor supported the state’s proposal, so horrified at the prospect of losing the last hand-operated swing bridge in Connecticut, we formed a grassroots citizen group to fight for the bridge.
I made it, along with the acquisition of “the Baron’s property” (known now as Winslow Park) a priority in my 1985 campaign platform and it was brought up and discussed at multiple meetings and debates during the election. It was clear people wanted to keep the bridge as it was. When I took office our state representatives and I immediately opened negotiations with the state and personally with the governor to repair and strengthen the bridge rather than replace it. It took time, patience and persistence, but eventually the Department of Transportation notified us that at our request they would repair, update and strengthen our historic bridge.
Since then the bridge has served us well. It is the iconic centerpiece of Saugatuck’s reinvigoration and transformation into a thriving mixed-use neighborhood complete with new housing, thriving retail establishments and popular restaurants. It meters traffic as it approaches the area’s narrow roads and heavily used sidewalks. It prevents oversize trucks from using Bridge Street and surrounding roads as a detour around traffic tie-ups on I-95. And we know the holidays are here when Al’s Angels festoon it with lights every November. I speak for many Westporters who would be heart broken to see it demolished.
I have always been proud of Westport’s Historic District Commission and grateful to the dedicated volunteers who keep watch over our character and history. I urge you to remember your mission and take all necessary action, including designating it as a local historic landmark to save our bridge. We are depending on you.