Saugatuck River bridge, Route 136 stretch named ‘scenic highway’ by state
WESTPORT — The state named a stretch of Route 136 — including the Saugatuck River Bridge — as a scenic roadway last week, possibly limiting any proposed state construction to the area.
The 1.82-mile portion begins at the intersection of Route 136 with Route 1 and Compo Road South, continues to the intersection of Route 136 and Bridge Street and concludes at the west end of the Saugatuck River Bridge, according to a state Department of Transportation press release. The bridge was already part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Route 136 joins the Merritt Parkway as the only scenic roadways in town.
“We’re justly proud because while the Merritt is a great road it’s hard to think of it as ours,” said Morley Boyd, a Westport Preservation Alliance member who was among those that submitted the roadway to the state for consideration. “This is a scenic highway that starts and ends in Westport. It’s a part of Westport history. For Westport residents, it communicates something of greater meaning.”
The DOT issued a report in early June that recommended either significant rehabilitation, or replacement of the Bridge Street bridge — officially known as the William F. Cribari Bridge. Local preservation advocates and residents have responded with campaigns to save the swing bridge and avoid replacement.
Now that the bridge is part of a scenic roadway, the Scenic Road Advisory Committee will provide another level of review of any plans to change the bridge or entire stretch of road. The committee would look to preserve the aesthetics and scenic quality of the route, including certain aesthetic qualities of the bridge and the views it provides, committee chairperson Colleen Kissane said.
But ensuring the bridge is structurally sound would be the DOT’s primary goal.
“Whether a roadway is designated scenic or not, safety is of the utmost importance to the department,” she said.
Boyd said the scenic roadway effort began as a way to help conserve the bridge. But as WPA members began to investigate the area they realized the route has a wealth of historic value, from the bridge to a battle site at the Compo Road South and Route 1 intersection.
Garten submitted the application as an individual citizen though she also serves as a town selectman. As for the additional review process any planned changes to the bridge will go through, she said, “This can only be good.”
DOT held a public forum in Westport to discuss the application earlier this year. Kissane, who was at the forum, said the public expressed nothing but positive reactions in favor of the designation.
The state will post signs along the scenic route, hopefully by the early fall, Kissane said. The Scenic Road Advisory Committee consists of state Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Economic and Community Development staff.
LWeiss@hearstmediact.com / @LauraEWeiss16