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Chimento illuminates Walk Bridge updates

A suggestion for tweaking the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s design for the Walk Bridge, from architect Bruce Beinfield.

A suggestion for tweaking the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s design for the Walk Bridge, from architect Bruce Beinfield.

Update, 3:34 p.m.: Comment from Bruce Beinfield. Correction, 3:30 p.m.: Frank Poirot is an Eversource spokesman.

NORWALK, Conn. – Ideas percolate for the look of a new Walk Bridge, but one thing is settled – there will be no ugly high towers spreading through SoNo.

“That’s a dead issue,” Norwalk Department of Public Works Director Bruce Chimento said, of proposed high tower relocation plan that, months ago, included mono poles through SoNo.

Chimento, in giving NancyOnNorwalk an update on progress in the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s effort to build a new railroad bridge over the Norwalk River, Chimento explained comments made by officials about the North Water Street overpass and an underground powerline through SoNo. He also provided the news that architect Bruce Beinfield has offered tweaks on the Walk Bridge’s appearance.

Beinfield, a member of the bridge Design Advisory Committee (DAC), sent an email last week to DAC members:

“At the prompting of a couple of committee members, my office has prepared tower top options in response to comments at the June 6th meeting.  There was a general preference for the two-story schemes, based in part on the iconic nature of the existing high towers.  (Assistant to the Mayor) Laoise (King) also noted the appeal of the simple traditional roof forms, that are common along the Sono waterfront.  There has also been an interest in expressing, the bridge workings, including the sixteen foot diameter wheels housed in the towers.

 “The option rendered in ink for your review, expresses the form of the great wheels in the tower, and has a simple, whimsical, grittiness that is intended to speak of the Norwalk Waterfront.  I have included a few other sketches too.”

Beinfield on Monday said he didn’t think ConnDOT has seen the sketch.

“It was a sketch we provided aimed at conveying to the design team, that Norwalk wants a bridge that speaks of Norwalk.  The local members of the DAC plan to meet to discuss providing additional guidance to the bridge design team,” Beinfield said in an email.

 

From the police station to Van Zant Street

Eversource is planning to bury a powerline under the Norwalk River, Economic Development Director Elizabeth Stocker told the Redevelopment Agency recently.

A new tower would go up at Norwalk Police headquarters, and the line would go under Elizabeth Street, under the river, under Veterans Park and Fort Point Street and up again at Van Zant Street, Stocker said.

Chimento said Monday that this plan replaced one decried in August by then-DPW Operations Manager Lisa Burns.

A draft version of a high tower relocation plan included the preferred option of replacing the current infrastructure with mono poles, from the bridge area to Oyster Shell Park, Burns told The Norwalk Center Task Force. That would destroy the view of Norwalk Harbor, Task Force member Peter Viteretto said, summing up Burns’ description.

ConnDOT has to replace the high-tension lines that go across the Walk Bridge, carrying electricity to East Norwalk, before the actual bridge construction begins, Chimento said Monday.

Instead of mono poles, the lines are going in an underground conduit, Chimento said, describing the conduit as more like a 14-foot by 8-foot tunnel, filled with high voltage lines.

The tunnel would probably go under the entrance road at Veterans Park, and the wires will come back up to the railroad tracks at Van Zant Street, he said.

“It makes absolute sense to me,” Chimento said.

A NoN reader suggested that the tunnel might affect the newly completed Veterans Park boat ramp.

Eversource media spokesman Frank Poirot had this to say, in a Friday email:

“We have two transmission lines that run along the railroad corridor. In order to rebuild the Walk Bridge, we must relocate these lines through SONO, reconnecting to the railroad corridor further east.
“Our Project team has been meeting with Norwalk and state officials for over a year to discuss a preliminary design, which has the support of the city and CDOT. While the preliminary design concept does follow the route which you have outlined in your email, it would not, as currently designed, interfere with the new visitor’s dock or boat ramp. “Additional work must be completed before we finalize a proposed design and file for required necessary state and federal permits.  It would be premature to provide drawings for a design which may change as more work is completed.”

 

Miscellaneous updates

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan and Stocker also talked about the North Water Street abutments and an easement. Catenaries will be reused, Stocker said.

Decisions about the North Water overpass are on hold until the bridge design is more finalized, Chimento said.

ConnDOT wants to come across North Water with a girder but a lattice-type structure is also being talked about, Chimento said.  You’d be able to see through the latter but then the beam that holds up the bridge would have to be wider, he said.

The catenaries are the steel structure that go over the tracks that carry the electric for trains, and they must be replaced, but some developers have expressed an interest in them, he said, explaining that developers want to use the aged catenaries for aesthetic purposes.

ConnDOT needs to use land under the bridge, where the IMAX theater is now, for construction, he said. When construction is complete, the easement will expire and the city will get the land – but its use will be restricted.

Norwalk can’t build a building but it could be a park, Chimento said. There could be boat launches for the Maritime Aquarium.

ConnDOT engineers say they are still at “30 percent design,” but according to Chimento that’s just a classification and they’re probably much further along.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has agreed to restore the original iron fencing, gates, and associated masonry at the original entrance to the Lockwood Mathews Mansion along West Avenue, as shown in this vintage photo. (Courtesy Norwalk Historical Commission)

If they declared themselves to be at “60 percent design” certain statutes would kick in and there would be resultant requirements, he said.

“There’s criteria … it triggers certain things,” Chimento said, reminding NoN that there are  other bridge projects connected to the Walk Bridge construction,

ConnDOT plans work on the East Avenue railroad bridge, the Fort Point railroad bridge, the Ann Street railroad bridge and the Osbourne Avenue railroad bridge.

“We are still discussing the detour plan. They are discussing what the bridge structures would look like, on top,” Chimento said. “I think it’s important that we all come together and decide what those towers look like and what you can do, like opening them up and lighting them.”

In September, ConnDOT lit up the Q-Bridge in New Haven, a.k.a. The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, according to news reports.

“It’s just gorgeous,” Chimento said, suggesting that LED lights could also make the new Walk Bridge special.

“It’s a very subtle thing,” Chimento said. “It looks very nice and I think they can do the same things for these towers. … as long as it makes it look nice and it fits in with the character.”

A suggestion for tweaking the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s design for the Walk Bridge, from architect Bruce Beinfield.

10 comments

Susan Wallerstein June 26, 2017 at 6:50 am

Thanks to Steve Rust and Tim Gaylord who represent the Arts Commission on the Walk Bridge Design Advisory Committee. Per Bruce Beinfield’s input and Bruce Chimento’s comments “making it look nice” is important.

Lisa Brinton Thomson June 26, 2017 at 8:15 am

Compensation to Norwalk for the disruption is also an issue. Norwalk cannot be shortchanged like it is with ECS funding by the state.

Debora Goldstein June 26, 2017 at 8:41 am

People should note that a lot of the “officials” referenced are engineers making decisions among themselves without the elected officials responsible for providing the input on behalf of the public at large.

Discussions about undergrounding lines in TTD territory have not been brought before the Commission, so that the rate-payers can be advised of the the full cost to them from these changes to their utility. No compensatory arrangements have been made for the ongoing future costs, or for the permanent revenue losses from alk of the eminent domain takings related to the project.

The TTD cannot be expected to continue to absorb these costs without rate increases or property tax assessments.

Also, its laughable that the city is complaining about ruining the skyline when they are the ones who stuck East norwalkers with the unsightly ice rink which ruins the view from every direction and lowers property values for dozens of homeowners.

Isabelle Hargrove June 26, 2017 at 10:19 am

We have a bridge design advisory committee but no vision for how our town could benefit from this project instead of being crushed by it. As it appears to often be the case, Norwalk burns as we fiddle…

And this is a stellar example of putting lipstick on a pig! Actually, it appears to add on to the structure to make it even more intrusive. Isn’t Mr. Beinfield the architect who wanted to build a mansion on a tiny strip of land on Farm Creek? If nothing else he is consistent in his architectural choices.

Donna June 26, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Debora, I have wondered how Norwalk allowed an ice rink at Vets park that basically served the needs of Darien hockey teams. I don’t remember Public comment solicited for that endeavor and I hope it doesn’t come back next year. But at least it was temporary.

Between the new power lines and the new walk bridge, what is the mitigation plan for addressing the likelihood that pollutants and contaminants buried in sediment won’t be further released into the Norwalk River? Or are we just resigning ourselves to fully killing the river? I’ve been told Vets park was built on what should have been a Super Fund site.

I realize Metro North and Amtrak have a lot riding on this project. But we have to live here.

Michael McGuire June 26, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I’m amazed that in all this talk about the Walk Street Bridge, the Dockyard project, East Norwalk Station etc. that there is no talk by RDA, City Hall, or Planning regarding a Wall Street Train Station.

Even when our local State Representative show strong bi-partisan support for re-activating the Wall Street Station.

Am I missing something? This is a golden opportunity to help Norwalk thrive. If government can’t see to fund this station as part of the larger project (note the station should not cost more than a rounding error on a budget to $1.0 BILLION), how will it get done later?

Answer – it wont. This must be done now as part of the Walk Street Bridge project!

Every train stop on Metro-North in Westchester and Southern Fairfield County is a hub of economic activity except for a few (SoNo included) which put the station in a residential area or the wrong place.

If you want a great downtown Wall Street, build a train station. Nothing else has seemed to work in the past 40+ years.

Debora Goldstein June 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Donna,

There was at least one public hearing on the ice rinks. Unfortunately, it was running parrallel to the approval process for the zip-line proposal in Cranbury Park.

That said, what is constructed each fall (for 9 more years, at least) exceeds what the council was asked to approve. (There are two professional rinks, instead of one full-size rink and one practice rink, for example).

It has slid past the deed restrictions in the park due to its “temporary” nature. It stayed up past its promised exit date in the lease without penalty and the arrangements for “rent” are laughable when weighed against what the company would pay a real landlord for land that isn’t “free” because it is in a park.

Debora Goldstein June 26, 2017 at 4:19 pm

To your question about environmental concerns connected to the Walk Bridge, there is much detail in the EA/EIE report relating to the current favored bridge design. Public comment on that is closed after a previously held public hearing.

This Eversource line under the park would be subject to environmental review and will likely have similar issues to the ones that came up when they redid he area adjacent to the ice rink.

The report and documents are all available at: http://www.walkbridgect.com/project_documents/

Jlightfield June 26, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Wall Street Train Station, New Library or New School. Pick one or all. Invest in the future of Norwalk instead of decorations.

Donna June 27, 2017 at 8:58 am

Debora
Is there a sunset on the ice rink?

Will there be other opportunities for public comment on the walk bridge or on the Eversource line under the park?

A friend who used to live in East Norwalk told me Vets Park was built on what now would be a Super Fund site.

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