Preliminary Cavalry Road Bridge replacement plan unveiled

WESTON — Engineers and town officials from both Weston and Westport have spent years coming up with options for replacing the shared Cavalry Road Bridge over the West Branch of the Saugatuck River.

“We’ve been working on it now for a couple of years,” said Jay Costello, vice president of Wengell, McDonnell & Costello, Inc., the engineering firm leading the project.

Costello presented three past plans, along with proposed changes to the bridge area during construction, at a public information meeting at Weston Town Hall on Tuesday.

Costello announced WMC will move forward with the first option, which at $2.32 million is the cheapest option and considered to be the most hydraulically efficient, meaning water from the nearby stream can move through the materials more efficiently. In addition, it has the shortest construction duration of around eight months.

Of the estimated $2.32 million, 80 percent will be funded by a federal government and the remaining 20 percent (or about $464,000) will be split between Westport and Weston.

How to split the cost for repairing the bridge has been a point of contention for the towns.

A state statute stipulates that maintentance expenses on shared town bridges shall be split based on a formula of total revenue collected by the towns in the past three fiscal years.

Weston Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz said that ratio means Westport should bear about 73 percent of the cost, while Weston pays 26 percent. The ratio would be recalculated every year the project is in effect, based on state statue and revenue provided to each town.

“The towns are still in discussions of how the cost will be allocated to each town,” Westport Finance Director Gary Conrad said May 2.

Costello said the main reason the bridge requires replacement is because of a March 2017 Connecticut Department of Transportation Bridge Inspection Report, which found the bridge to be structurally deficient and in poor condition.

“Both towns are very fortunate that the bridge qualifies for federal funding from the state Department of Transportation,” Luiz said at the meeting. “It’s like a car that you get 80 percent off. It’s a good deal. It’s very good financially for the towns to take advantage of that.”

The bridge, however would need to be closed with a detour for the duration of the construction.

WMC will need to obtain overweight vehicle permits, State Flood Management Certification and permits from the respective towns’ Inland Wetlands and Watercourses departments.

The state Division of Right Of Way will be assisting with partial acquisitions for easements, which are the rights to cross or use someone’s land, for areas where they will be filling in and placing slopes. Although property impacts are subject to change, no actual property acquiring is necessary at the time. The project is scheduled to begin in 2021.

The bridge design is 30 percent complete, according to Costello, enough information where the firm felt it could bring it forward to the public. But there were no members of the public in attendance Tuesday night.

There were, however, fire marshals and fire chiefs from both Weston and Westport there to make certain the detours made sense in times of emergency and can fit larger firetrucks.

According to Weston Fire Chief John Pokorny, the detour will add approximately one minute to 90 seconds in response time for the nearly seven homes in the area.

Despite every second counting in these situations, Pokorny and Westport Fire Marshal Nathaniel Gibbons both said they were not concerned, as the tests to measure the detour were done without emergency lights and at average speed limits.