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.”
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.
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.”