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Is a movable Walk Bridge needed for dredging?

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It is now acknowledged that low profile tug boats could deliver barges to Devine Brothers even if the Walk Bridge no longer opened. And that the 15 sailboats upriver could easily be accommodated in Norwalk Harbor. So what arguments remain for a very expensive, malfunction prone movable bridge which will disrupt the Maritime Aquarium and SoNo businesses, cover oyster beds with toxic sediment, and massively release carbon in order to produce and assemble the steel and concrete?

Some town officials are now circulating the notion that a fixed bridge would prevent dredging cranes from accessing the river upstream of the bridge. This seemed odd to me, since construction cranes travel beneath highway overpasses before being tipped up at work sites. But, I decided to inquire.

A search for “US dredging” led me to US Aqua Services in Louisiana which dredges throughout the US. The company president Ken Myers told me that dredge cranes are usually transported flat on barges and tipped up at their destination. He doubted that fixed bridge clearance could be an issue. Moreover, he said dredging is now more commonly done by hydraulic suction rather than mechanical digging from a crane. The hydraulic equipment is low profile with no clearance issues.

Town officials have also suggested that a fixed bridge might preclude federal funding for dredging. However, those funds are allocated on the basis of the commercial value of traffic on a waterway, not its vertical clearance. When Norwalk last applied for dredging funds in the ’90s, special efforts were made to have oil delivered by barge rather than truck, so that the application could show higher value cargoes. In recent decades, oil barges have become a rare sight on the Norwalk River.

Until the construction contracts are signed, it’s not too late to stop this financial and environmental fiasco which is a manifestation of governmental incompetence. Gov. Lamont himself stated April 2 at the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce: “This is crazy, this is the type of boondoggle that makes people really cynical about government.” If Mayor Rilling and Senator Duff walk back their positions on this, I bet the governor would let sanity prevail.

Peter Libre

Norwalk

11 comments

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 4:33 am

Peter-Great piece!

Another false dilemma shattered.

I hope Governor Lamont reads NON or someone can put this in front of him.

Why are people like Senator Bob Duff and soon to be ex Mayor Harry Rilling pushing the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Bridge?

Could it be that many people and organizations stand to benefit from all that taxpayer money being spent (wasted)??

The process in which these big Government decisions get made and then thrust upon the taxpayers is terrible.

It is our money that is being so misused.

The lift bridge costs; financial, environmental, and aesthetic can not be justified!

Dredging can be justified and it should continue to happen every decade or two.

Jeff Hall July 20, 2019 at 6:14 am

> It is now acknowledged that low profile tug boats could deliver
> barges to Devine Brothers even if the Walk Bridge no longer opened.

Has Devin Brothers acknowledged this? Otherwise, I don’t see how this sheds light on the matter.

Piberman July 20, 2019 at 8:33 am

Mayor Rilling has pointed out to future development of the small upriver stream. But the east side is already developed with condos. And the west side had wetlands that preclude any building. That leaves a few modest sized parcels currently in commercial use that could be potentially commercially developed. The only sizable property is one occupied by Devine Brothers – a moderate sized sand and gravel business. Clearly there’s not much potential here requiring a billion dollar bridge.

Still remains curious why Mayor Rilling didnt’ accept the offer of Congressman Himes to have the USCG declare the waterway “non-navigable” as he did easily for Bridgeport saving that City hundreds of millions allowing the construction of a fixed bridge over a lightly used waterway.

And it remains curious why Mayor Rilling hasn’t requested hiring a major consulting firm to identify the huge costs to Norwalk and the Downtown area from the multi-year bridge construction. Surely the new Mall operators aren’t pleased.

So why the billion dollar outlay in a State with a decade long stagnant economy/employment and major Exodus of its citizens/firms/jobs amidst the nation’s longest and most vigorous economic expansion ?
It’s a puzzle. And its received major attention within Fairfield County’s business community.

Here are some possible reasons. It might help give name recognition to Norwalk. But our City has only a modest sized business center without major corporate offices. And there’s long been a major surplus of such space in the County. Plus City officials and the community writ large have no appetite for major Downtown redevelopment in the Stamford mode.

So we’re left with one alternative for a billion dollar project bringing no economic benefit to our City, only major disruptions in a State with very major issues. Just maybe there’s a name that might be attached to the bridge. Some have suggested we’re in the early stages of the soon to be built Gov. Malloy Bridge.

Final note. Having lived in Norwalk for nearly 4 decades the bridge has more united opposition throughout Norwalk than any other proposed project over that time. Lets hope common sense prevails and a fixed bridge remains over what is a very modest sized shallow waterway. In a few months the Downtown Mall will open. Why would we impair the success of this much anticipated project – the largest in our City’s modern history – with a costly billion dollar bridge that brings no benefit whatsoever to Norwalk. It’s a puzzle.

Another Opinion July 20, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Agree 100% and well though out . I’m sure there are countless examples like this throughout the state which add up to significant $$. CT must do better.

CAROL July 20, 2019 at 2:03 pm

great piece-how can we get around the “powers that be” and get rid of the lift bridge that we obviously do not need or want.

Jason Milligan July 20, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Carol,

A new mayor could likely but the brakes on the boondoggle.

When was the last time it got stuck open?

5 years ago?

Patrick Cooper July 20, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Peter – wow. It’s not often we are treated to a lucid – fact based argument that is personally researched, and so easily comprehendible. Amazingly a-political. Center street.

Compare that to the July 10th article on NoN with the standard comment from Mike Mushak. His world view is total Armageddon for Norwalk if we don’t buy the Mayor’s viewpoint. Again. Like POKO.

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2019/07/federal-judge-rules-against-norwalk-harbor-keeper/#comments

There is no doubt this project is being held hostage by a few politicians whose motives stand in stark contrast to the vocal opposition by a vast majority of the residents of the city. Even Ned can’t countenance typical political spin in the face of questions – he knows that wouldn’t serve him well this early in his term.

When will the taxpayers of this city wake up and realize your elected officials do not listen and do not care what we think? They count on the mindless D party-centric Stockholm syndrome to skate these boondoggle projects past our permission so that a handful of very select folks squeeze millions out of the electorate for a bridge that isn’t wanted, needed, or financially justifiable.

Please Mushak – keep your rebuttal to under 5000 words.

Bryan Meek July 20, 2019 at 11:40 pm

Peter Libre’s analysis is enlightening and spot on. Moreover, resource allocation is totally out of whack in this state. We are not investing in high impact projects where they could really count. Instead we do billion dollar bandaids when the bridges over the Saugatuck are in worse shape. It’s insane.

John ONeill July 21, 2019 at 11:12 am

Another example of why govt politicians would never make it in the real world..This project would be done in half the time at a third of the price if practical intelligent people handled this…Same for State pension system. .

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