Marpe says no to Cribari Bridge funding
WESTPORT — It isn’t every day someone turns down $40 million.
But for First Selectman Jim Marpe, the hooks attached to the money in state and federal funding to design and rebuild the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge brought with it much uncertainty.
“I cannot even contemplate supporting the set-aside of $40 million in constructed costs without a clearer understanding of the intentions of this project,” Marpe said in prepared remarks at a state Department of Transportation public meeting in Newington Tuesday.
Marpe requested the $40 million be removed from the State Transportation Improvement Program list. The STIP lists all highway and public transit projects proposed to be undertaken utilizing Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administration funding. The STIP encompasses various projects the DOT intends to pursue during the next four years.
At home the news was celebrated across the board.
“We support the decision by the First Selectman concerning the Cribari Bridge,” Democratic candidate for first selectman, Melissa Kane, posted on Facebook July 11. “However, we need to do more. We need to take immediate action: now is the time to sit down with the Department of Transportation and work out a solution that is best for Westport. Taking initiative with creative ways to move forward is key.”
Over a year ago, the DOT released a rehabilitation study report calling for either “major rehabilitation” or “structure replacement” of the bridge. Both options arrive at around the same price tag, with replacement costing $41.4 million and renovation costing $41.2 million. As it stands, the DOT has not yet presented preliminary designs to the town for what they plan to do.
On Aug. 17, the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization — composed of town leaders, including Marpe — will vote on adding the 133-year-old Cribari Bridge to the STIP. In his remarks to the DOT, Marpe said, “My residents and I are seriously concerned about the potential consequences of a major rehabilitation or replacement.”
He said he doesn’t want 18-wheel trucks crossing the bridge in lieu of I-95 and went on to stress the importance of preserving the bridge, which contributes to the “historic character and culture” of Saugatuck.
Marpe made clear he is prepared to vote against the funding at the planning organization’s Aug. 17 meeting and will encourage his colleagues there to do so, as well.