Agreement reached on bridge funding
Updated 3:12 pm, Sunday, September 18, 2016
WESTPORT — Following years of ambiguity concerning the upkeep of the Saugatuck Island Bridge, an agreement between the Island Special Taxing District and the town was approved by the Board of Selectmen Wednesday morning.
The deal to repair the one-lane timber bridge on Harbor Road, built in 1929, is contingent upon the island proving appropriate funding is in place to cover the island’s portion of the $2.6 million replacement bridge. Paid for in part by a FEMA grant of $1.3 million, the other half of $2.6 million will be split between the town and the Saugatuck Island Special Taxing District, the owners of the bridge.
Emergency vehicles can’t cross the bridge due to weight restrictions. In 2012, when Superstorm Sandy hit, the bridge floated off its pilings. The only way for emergency vehicles to access the island via roadway is on Canal Road; however, Public Works Director Steve Edwards said because of the propensity for Canal Road to flood in times of severe weather, that route is also often out of commission, and first responders must be stationed at Cedar Point Yacht Club during inclement weather.
When Canal Road is flooded, heavy vehicles choose to cross the Saugatuck Island Bridge, despite exceeding the bridge’s weight capacity, Edwards said.
“People are going over the bridge that shouldn’t be going over the bridge. You’ve got landscapers going over the bridge; if you’ve got to mow a lawn and it’s flooded (Canal Road), he’s going to go over the bridge. … One of these days, if we don’t do anything, we’re going to find a truck in the drink,” Edwards said.
The replacement span will have one lane and a concrete deck surface.
According to the contract, the town will arrange inspections, repairs and maintenance of the bridge. Within 60 days of any bridge maintenance or repair, the island is required to pay half the costs and to keep a reserve fund on hand for such expenditures.
“This agreement, going forward, provides a mechanism so that we can identify the work effort and make those repairs and assets for those repairs in a process that is documented,” Edwards said.