Residents speak out against widening bridge
WESTPORT—Droves of residents and elected officials probed representatives from the state DOT on their plans for the fate of the Saugatuck Swing Bridge at Town Hall Wednesday.
The meeting was to garner the public’s reaction to the DOT’s Rehabilitation Studies Report of the 132-year old bridge, officially known as the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge.
Released to the public on June 3, two days after the DOT’s announced release date of June 1, the RSR recommends either "major rehabilitation" or "structure replacement."
In the replacement option the DOT proposes to widen the bridge from 19’-6" to 47’. Residents spoke out against widening the bridge saying that it would increase speeding and result in more accidents.
"If you make it wider, people are going to be killed," Peter Fulbright said.
Many voiced concerns over the proposed height alterations from 12’ 10" to 14’ 3". They said they were against the additional clearance height because it would potentially lead to vehicles such as 18-wheel trucks being allowed to pass through the bridge in an effort to circumvent the often congested I-95 thruway.
"Splitting the truss solves the problem of the truss…while were doing it we could raise to the 14’3" and that is part of our proposal," Nezames said.
After Nezames finished his statement the crowd vociferously questioned "Why?" multiple times only to be shut down by the DOT moderator.
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-136) implored the DOT to tell the community whether or not their intent to raise the bridge’s clearance height is them attempting to get "18-wheel trucks to come through."
First Selectman Jim Marpe said he didn’t want to introduce large trucks in or around the bridge and the Saugatuck neighborhood, but he did say DOT’s solution must improve traffic flow in the area.
Replacing the bridge would cost $35.8 million while the estimated repair cost, which includes the installation of a temporary bridge during rehabilitation, is $19.8 million.
The two options were analyzed for how much they would cost over a 75 year span. Life cycle cost over that span would be $41.43 million for a replacement bridge and $41.27 million for renovating the bridge.
Members of the Westport Preservation Alliance, spearheaded by preservationist Morley Boyd, have been working to designate the bridge itself, and areas abutting the bridge along both banks of the Saugatuck River, as a local historic district. The bridge — the oldest moveable span in the state — is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Boyd, referencing all of the work put in to preserve the bridge by the town, said "All three (historic designations for the bridge) come with the endorsement of our town’s legislative body or our town’s planning body so it’s not just a small group…," he said.