Route 136: Scenic road sign seen as more protection for classic bridge in Westport
WESTPORT — In what appears to serve as yet another layer of protection against replacement of the Bridge Street Bridge, a deep blue scenic road sign has been firmly planted at each end of the 1.8-mile stretch of Route 136.
In June the state Department of Transportation released its Rehabilitation Studies Report of the 132-year-old bridge and recommended either “major rehabilitation” or “structure replacement.” The scenic road designation, determined by the state Scenic Roads Advisory Committee, is looked at by many as another way to preserve the historic span. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Morley Boyd, a member of the Westport Preservation Alliance, who was instrumental in the application process, said although they started the initiative as a way to save the bridge, they soon uncovered how significant the route was.
“Of course the process did start out, in all candor, as a thought argument about how to conserve the bridge, but as we looked into the program, I was thinking, ‘My god, here we have 1.8 miles that not only includes 22 acres of open space, but 48 documented historic resources, including one of the most significant barns in the state of Connecticut, the Gault Barn,’ ” Boyd said.
Starting at the west end of the Bridge Street Bridge, officially known as the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge, the designation runs until Route 136 intersects with the Post Road and Compo Road South by the Compo Acres Shopping Center. At the intersection of Post Road and Compo Road South is the site where 18 citizen soldiers from Westport took on 1,800 British soldiers in April 1777 and where the first shots were fired in the raid on Danbury, according to Boyd.
“In 1.8 miles we realized that we have not just scenic views, but important connections to historic landmarks from our agricultural, maritime, revolutionary war past,” he said.
Wendy Crowther, Selectwoman Helen Garten and John Suggs, alliance members, submitted the application. The scenic designation focuses a keener eye to any possible changes to the area.
“If the state wants to make any changes to this piece of the roadway, it has to go through a separate commission, the Scenic Roads Advisory Committee,” Crowther said. “They have to decide whether it’s going to hurt the scenic assets along the route … and it puts some limitations on the state.”
The official who determines the status of scenic roads, Colleen Kissane, chairwoman of the state Scenic Roads Advisory Committee said there are around 300 scenic roads in the state and the state only gives out one or two designations on average.
“More than not, they (applications) are rejected for one reason or another,” Kissane said.
Kissane was swayed by the views and the history tied to the route along with what she described as an unprecedented and overwhelming amount of community pride for the road’s designation.
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