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Norwalk harbor keepers to seek federal assistance in Walk Bridge project

A potential Walk Bridge design, as presented in June by the Connecticut Department of Transportation to a Norwalk Design Advisory Committee.

NORWALK, Conn. — A Norwalk Commission is appealing for federal help as the state prepares to rebuild the Walk Bridge, the aged railroad bridge over the Norwalk River.

This is the Harbor Management Commission’s reaction to the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) released by the Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding the massive Walk Bridge project.  

“Since the DOT has issued their FONSI and were adamant about not supporting independent assessment of this major project facing Norwalk, the commission has decided to explore whether federal funding might be available to assist the commission in reviewing engineering designs, applications and plans that will affect Norwalk Harbor.  Perhaps this will set a precedent for other City agencies to do the same,” John Pinto, chairman of the Commission’s Application Review Committee, said Tuesday in an email.

Mayor Harry Rilling did not respond to an email asking about the situation.

In late July, Rilling said in a press release that the FONSI “does not mean that Norwalk will not be impacted by the project – it is a term that means that working together there are things that can be done to mitigate the short and long term effects of the project.”

“In fact, there are many more phases to follow including numerous permits from state and federal agencies,” Rilling was quoted as saying. “While the CT DOT has been working closely with the City of Norwalk and interested stakeholders to advance this project, there remains much work ahead to work out the fine details of the project including environmental mitigation, bridge design, construction sequencing, traffic and parking mitigation as well as support for economic impact mitigation for area businesses.”

Norwalk Harbor Management Commission Chairman Tony Mobilia said Tuesday that no letters have sent yet to seek federal funding. Asked if he thought funding was available, Mobilia said in an email, “We won’t know if we don’t try.”

“We can’t sit back and wait,” Pinto said in an email. “The Walk Bridge Project is too important for Norwalk not to consider all options in manner that benefits the citizens of Norwalk.  This project is going to impact the City for over 6 years.”

5 comments

Dave Davidson September 7, 2017 at 8:03 am

AT LEAST SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING

CONGRATULATIONS to John T. Pinto, Chairman of the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission Application Review Committee for responding to the State DOT determination of a “Finding of No Significant Impact” on Norwalk from the Walk Bridge Project and recognizing that doing nothing is a poor choice. The Norwalk Hour reported:

“The decision to seek help from Washington came after NHMC members reviewed two recent reports concerning the estimated $1 billion bridge replacement.
This summer, the DOT released its Record of Decision and the Federal Transit Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact as part of their review as required under the Connecticut Environmental Policy and National Environmental Policy acts, respectively.
NHMC members lamented the FTA issued the Finding of No Significant Impact, rather than requiring further evaluation through an Environmental Impact Study.
“We can say that we disagree with the basic premise that you make — a Finding of No Significant Impact — when you don’t know the impacts and you don’t know how you’re going to mitigate them, but that seems to be the way the environmental (review) process works,” Steadman said.”
(Geoffrey Steadman is the planning consultant for the harbor management commission.)
““We’re not trying to be obstructionist. We’re trying to work with them to get the best product that we can in Norwalk,” Pinto said.”

Contrast this with the Mayors brushing off the meaning of the “Finding of No Significant Impact” as reported in The Norwalk Hour:

“This determination is only the first phase of the Walk Bridge replacement project,” explained Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. “While the FTA uses the term ‘Finding of No Significant Impact’ to describe the end of the first phase, the finding does not mean that Norwalk will not be impacted by the project — it is a term that means that working together there are things that can be done to mitigate the short and long term effects of the project.”

Since the Mayor is doing nothing, KUDOS to Mr. Pinto and the NHMC for not just accepting the decision without any response. Why is it that when there is an actual need for our leadership to fight for the city, they retreat and declare that there’s “nothing to see here” and that we should move along?

Fred Wilms September 7, 2017 at 9:31 am

Excellent move by the Harbor Commission! Norwalk needs to have an independent Peer Review of the Walk Bridge options. Right now there is a huge disconnect between the DOT and Norwalk public opinion. The DOT is firmly committed to the Vertical Span Lift Bridge option. Meanwhile many Norwalkers wonder why we cannot just weld the bridge shut. The time has come for action.

Bryan Meek September 7, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Sailing out on the Chesapeake Bay this past weekend and couldn’t help but notice dozens upon dozens of immense, commercial craft. 300 foot tankers, 500 foot cruise liners, massive container ships, etc…. all coming in and out of a real commercial port in Baltimore.

The bridge guarding this harbor is over 4 miles long and 180 feet above the water at its highest point. While it has a much longer useful life some estimates to replace are around $3 billion. Some estimates put the marine commercial activity of this near 20 mile water way at around $100 billion annually.

I don’t care how this is analyzed, at a cost of $1 billion (before overruns) it makes zero financial sense to maintain this like some overly important water way that is barely a mile long to support a handful of barges and taller recreational boats.

Tony D'Andrea September 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Logic would dictate a peer review for the largest project in Norwalk since the Interstate Highway construction is a no-brainier.

Rick September 7, 2017 at 7:19 pm

lets thank the commission ,at the same time lets see why pollution his coming from day st heading for the Norwalk river.

We all know the PCB Ryan park issue could add to that plume no one wants to talk about heading for the marina outfall on water st. down Concord.

No time like now to back the commission , no one else seems to have any concerns with the river.

Maybe when things come up in the city on pollution they cam be added to the cc list , lets have some respect for the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission

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