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Opinion: Like a zombie, the Walk Bridge lives on!

Former Mayor Bill Collins.

Late at night, if you lie awake and listen carefully, you can hear the grinding wheels of bureaucracy, all the way from Hartford.  Among its endless products, shimmering in the moon light, is the Norwalk River Walk Bridge. Pride of the Department of Transportation, it will bob up and down for another hundred years in order to allow the passage of an occasional sail boat. No doubt it will also rise and fall to welcome periodic tugboats and barges since the DOT is too much in a stupor to prescribe low profile vessels to lug sand and gravel upstream to Devine Brothers.

Governor Lamont professes to be disturbed by this apparent giant waste of state bond money for such needless construction, but he has trouble pulling the trigger to order a 90-day grace period to bring in another set of engineers to review the first one’s plans. Such is the political clout of the DOT, building contractors, engineers and the Coast Guard. Each has a major stake in seeing the current wasteful plans go forward. For some it means profit, for others, jobs, for still others, prestige. For taxpayers, it means money down the drain. For Norwalkers it’s loss of property, lengthy disruptions, a compromised harbor, and a huge ugly scar on the landscape. All to no purpose. For Connecticut in general it means other important transportation projects falling further behind for lack of money. Woe is us.

By chance many moons ago I happened to be appointed to the Design Review Task Force for the bridge. After a couple meetings it struck me that something was fishy. Why, I asked, was it to be built so high when there were no more tall ships left to go underneath. Clippers don’t dock here much anymore. This question was not well-received. Well, there’s the Coast Guard, there is the Federal Waterway designation, there is the (grossly deficient) study of alternatives that has already been completed. So the project has continued plowing ahead like the Vietnam War with no one taking a serious look at it.

So could it be stopped now and scaled back? Sure. But not without some big players losing both a little money and the expectation of making a whole lot more. The governor could tell the DOT commissioner to hire a new engineer to review that deeply flawed study of options that came up with this monstrosity in the first place. But he is new, he is under tremendous pressure, and has a few other items on his plate. He could be reminded that Bridgeport already accomplished what is being recommended here. It avoided a huge bridge, got a waiver from the Coast Guard, and gave up a pointless Federal Waterway designation. Everyone is happy. Norwalk could do the same. The congressman has offered to help here too.

So what to do? Luckily this is not rocket science or brain surgery. You call, write, or email the governor, the mayor, state reps and senators, the DOT, and your friends. Political pressure can counteract fat-cat pressure. Let your elected officials know that you take a dim view of waste and disruption all for the profit of a few. Hey, sometimes it works.

38 comments

Mike Lyons September 29, 2019 at 8:27 am

If only we had someone in City Hall or the State Senate who would ‘stand up for us’ on this boondoggle …

Lisa Brinton September 29, 2019 at 8:55 am

I wholeheartedly agree with Mayor Collins that Norwalk should come together to request a stay on this project and an independent review. It will be listed in my mayoral platform outlined this week.

The governor remains open to listen but it must be led by Norwalk city officials. I am confounded as to why our current mayor supports the current plan when it clearly hurts our city in its current form. I don’t believe city officials have done due diligence on this critical project.

Most Norwalk residents are oblivious that this even coming! As a candidate, I have already asked Governor Lamont for a review. If elected, I will request a stay and independent review. Just as important, I will reach out to all stakeholders to discuss the needs of the upper harbor so we ensure that the Walk Bridge replacement serves the interests of Norwalk, as well as spends Connecticut’s taxpayers’ dollars wisely.

Finally, I find it disappointing that the Rilling Administration only negotiated air conditioning and a fence at Lockwood Matthew’s Mansion for 5-years of disruption to this overall $1Billion project or that the fate and final costs of rebuilding the Maritime Aquarium’s IMAX theater (needed to be torn down for staging) is now in question in excess of some $10M+ dollars. Will Norwalk taxpayers be left on the hook for that? I pledge to revisit these items.

Mike Mushak September 29, 2019 at 10:01 am

I beg to differ from my friend Mayor Collins’ opinion.

The stupidest thing Norwalk could ever do from a planning perspective, and for future generations is roll over and give up a mile of fully-accessible federal channel lined with water-dependent uses we are required by law to protect, and currently maintained and dredged with mostly federal and state funds.

Who knows what’s coming in the future? Limiting our options now, when a full-height Bridge will cost nearly as much as a limited height bridge, is just myopic and foolish, especially since the reality is every property owner north of the bridge will likely lawyer up and sue for the infringement on their riparian rights to a fully-accessible federal channel in perpetuity which could easily add up to hundreds of millions in payouts and years of lawsuits, costing all of us more in the end.

In the meantime, the current bridge has a settling foundation and corroding structural iron and can’t be simply “sealed shut”, an option ruled out early by the engineers as compromising public safety on the busiest train corridor in the country. If it’s going to cost almost as much to replace the bridge with a fixed-height span as it would for a full-height movable span, as the engineers have told us, why would we ever choose the fixed span?

We also saw what happened to Westport when they stopped dredging their channel. A silt-infested shallow marsh of invasive phragmites reeds took over, which creates a smelly dead zone of oxygen-poor hypoxic water that kills both breeding grounds and migratory routes for fish, and reduces the open water that adds value to waterfront properties. It also increases flooding potential on surrounding properties as upstream floodwater gets backed up behind silted-up channels with less capacity.

We would see reduced property values for the tens of millions of property value along the entire waterfront, a burden on every single taxpayer in Norwalk. No thanks!

There has been mention of low-profile hydraulic dredging, but that relies on having acres of adjoining land to deposit dredging spoils on (which we don’t have) to dry out and be removed later by truck if it’s contaminated which it likely would be as it has been in the past.

Low-profile traditional dredging is more expensive than with full-height equipment, and why would the state and federal authorities ever agree to pay for that once we decided as a city to cut off full-height access and eliminate the federal channel? They’ll likely tell us that’s our problem, and future generations will have to pay the bill for our poor planning decisions.

Rethink The Bridge September 29, 2019 at 10:14 am

Is a $1 billion project including a massive, mechanically complex bridge the best option for Norwalk as a replacement for the current Walk Bridge? Is it necessary to build an industrial size behemoth to service the lightly trafficked upper harbor?

Shouldn’t Norwalk review these questions thoroughly before the start of a disruptive 5-year construction that will permanently deface our coastline and impact our fragile maritime ecosystem?

A fixed bridge would cost half to build (from $511 just for the bridge alone), require years less of disruption for Norwalk, cost a fraction to maintain, and safeguard our coastline.
1. Simpler and less costly design=
2. Simpler and less costly construction (savings of $261 to $211 Million)
3. Reduced construction time (savings of approximately 2 years)
4. Increased structural resiliency
5. Elimination of maintenance, repair and replacement costs for the mechanical and electrical components needed for movable bridges. And, in this case, two parallel movable bridges.
6. Elimination of ongoing labor costs associated with the operation of movable bridges
7. Improved aesthetics. A truss bridge could be designed to maintain a look in keeping with the Walk Bridge’s historic character
8. Improved rail operational safety, efficiency and reliability

Protect Norwalk Harbor is a group of Norwalk residents who want the city to request a 90-day stay and order an independent review of the current replacement bridge. The Walk Bridge replacement was selected under obsolete requirements of federal navigability that should be reviewed before irreparable damage is done to our local environment and economy.

It is not too late for Norwalk to do its due diligence. No comprehensive study was done to determine the applicability of the Federal Navigable Waterways designation to the future of the Upper Harbor. Yet, this criterion determined the need for the current lift bridge selection.

We are encouraged by Governor Lamont’s recent public statements questioning the appropriateness of the current lift bridge. We are calling on Mayor Rilling and the City of Norwalk to request a 90-day stay and order an independent review of the project, 
Find out more and sign our petition at:
 https://rethinkthebridge.org/  

Piberman September 29, 2019 at 10:48 am

Many old timers remember Bill Collins with affection. And for good reason. If memory serves right during his terms the Merritt 7 complex was built. And without subsidies ! Of course the new proposed Bridge is a Boondoggle of awesome proportions. A Legacy to a failing State and indifferent City Hall with so many unfulfilled needs.

Mimi September 29, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Thank you, Mr. Collins.

Remember this story, NoN readers:

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2019/04/lamont-promises-to-reconsider-walk-bridge/

Two standouts in the article:

“U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) in 2016 said it was possible to change the river’s designation, but Rilling and the Common Council would have to ask for it to be done.
‘If Norwalk decides that’s the right way to go, that would involve buying out all those businesses upstream of the bridge, I will go to work with the Army Corps of Engineers with the federal government, to take away that navigability,’ Himes said, in 2016.”

And Governor Lamont’s comment says it all:

“This is crazy, this is the type of boondoggle that makes people really cynical about government…”

Nevertheless, we haven’t heard much from Governor Lamont on the Walk Bridge Project, and our mayor and Common Council appear to be jamming this overwrought, impractical, billion dollar behemoth through. Huge waste of money, while we have far more pressing roadway and sidewalk infrastructure issues which negatively impact us and require funding. Passing this project through is completely tone deaf and flying in the face of public majority opinion and CT’s current economic crisis. Didn’t Lamont say CT was going on a debt diet?

Mayor Rilling in the above article mentions that this plan is of the least disruption to residents. East Norwalk was impassable during the recent Stroffolino Bridge closing. It was downright depressing and frustrating. People could not get out of their streets – cut through traffic created standstill traffic on East Avenue – with no police enforcement whatsoever to patrol the onslaught. Imagine what will happen to East Norwalk once this Walk Bridge construction gets going. Now add the Sono Collection cut through traffic and the impending train station apartments on top of that. Our road infrastructure simply cannot take anymore. We have run out of space.

East Norwalk, we are going to get slammed if this Walk Bridge passes. The Stroffolino Bridge closing catastrophe was but a taste of things to come. I hope you will please consider this very serious quality of life issue before heading to the polls this November.

Robert Kunkel September 29, 2019 at 12:28 pm

As the Norwalk Harbor Keepers we have been preaching this for nearly four years. Beginning with the report that the Maritime theater needed to raised,the gravel loads could be delivered by low profile tug and the fact that the Navigation requirements can be easily addressed.

We softened those comments by simply asking the Mayor and Governor Lamont for an independent 90 day review.

I work harbors around the world every day. I work Norwalk Harbor with a new Marine Highway project that can be significantly impacted by this lengthy project as can our shellfish fields.

Is a 90 day review such a difficult request?

Michael Torre September 29, 2019 at 12:32 pm

My simple solution. Remove the towers and route the cables with much lower towers. Lock the renovated existing bridge in place. A complete inspection and upgrade of the existing structure. Boats that don’t fit underneath removed to yacht storage south of the bridge. Low profile delivery vessels north of the bridge. Saves a lot of money and commuter interruptions.

Victor Cavallo September 29, 2019 at 5:34 pm

I’m surprised that anyone with any appreciation for SONO as an arts, culture and gastronomic mecca would advocate for its virtual decimation as a result of the estimated five-year construction cycle for this eye-sore that is to be the new Walk Bridge. Not to mention the destruction of quality of life for nearby residents who apparently have made a stupid decision to live in the area.

Destruction Exhibit 1: the IMAX theater.

Five years of trucks and cranes, diesel engine pollution, NYC subway-levels of noise pollution, nuclear levels of night-time light pollution, steel beams and girders stored on streets, industrial equipment and materials staging, blocked and closed roads to enable oversize-load deliveries, re-routed and jammed-up traffic – this is what’s to be expected while dining outdoors at Washington Prime or attending any summer arts festivals and concerts. Also to be expected without a doubt is that the construction cycle will be delayed by years and construction costs will skyrocket by millions. That’s how state-managed projects work. All this devastation and $1 billion down the hole for the benefit of Devine Brothers and the occasional sailboat during summer?

Isabelle Hargrove September 29, 2019 at 8:12 pm

@Mike Mushak

A lot of statements and opinions included in your comments laced with threats and fear-mongering doomsday scenarios.

What residents and Mayor Collins are asking for is a review of all the “facts” you are presenting. You seem so informed, where is the comprehensive study that Mayor Rilling must have ordered prior to supporting this project? It would be inconceivable that he presided as mayor for the last 6 years over this monumental project for Norwalk without doing his due diligence on behalf of the city.

Yet, I don’t remember any study of the upper harbor, any task force of stakeholders convening to discuss and research the needs of the Upper Harbor and the pros and cons of all options or any research on dredging.

I asked ConnDot during one of their public hearing whether they had studied the navigability requirements of the upper harbor. Their answer was that it was not their job, they are given parameters and build to them.

So who should have performed that due diligence? Norwalk. Did we, no. So let’s do a mea culpa, swallow our pride, and order the study. Norwalk, our coastline, 5 years of chaos for residents and businesses is certainly worth that much or are we conceited know-it-alls?

Mike Mushak September 29, 2019 at 10:04 pm

@Isabelle Hargrove, a court has already reviewed the project during a recent lawsuit, and determined the DOT had considered all alternatives in its decision-making process. .

It’s important to remember that a catastrophic failure of the 120-year-old bridge, that carries 120,000 people on over 200 trains a day through Norwalk, would cost the national economy $100 million per day in lost productivity, or $3 billion a month, according to the Northeast Corridor Investment Plan.

Then imagine a bunch of armchair amateurs deciding the fate of the bridge, instead of licensed engineers, and the potential outcome of that kind of populist strategy.

Bobby Lamb September 29, 2019 at 11:02 pm

One of the reasons we haven’t heard more from the Governor is that once you actually learn about this project it’s obvious it should go forward. He said that a few weeks into his new position. Now that he understands it, it’s going forward. This is another example of people not taking the time to understand something and going on a full force campaign against it. It’s true at first glance this sucks. No one wants it to happen. the state doesn’t want to spend this money, the city doesn’t want the disruption – but the bridge is over 100 years old. It has to be fixed. Fixing big stuff like this is expensive. Like Mike says, it would be idiotic to lose miles of waterfront property – Norwalk should be pushing for keeping that access not advocating for the state to make a fixed bridge which could potentially harm our options for river use in the future.

Lisa Brinton September 30, 2019 at 12:01 am

Bobby, With all due respect, I’ll take the advice of those men (and women) who have been Harbor Masters on the river and in global shipping and navigation for their entire lives over the partisan rants of an ‘expert on everything.’

A bridge of that magnitude for 100 luxury sail boats lifts a year seems a tad over the top. I thank Mayor Collins for standing up for what is right.

As for the Governor, more than likely he is bumping up against the status quo bureaucracy of the DOT. The status quo is a powerful and stationary entity. Follow the money – that will tell everyone what they need to know.

Bobby Lamb September 30, 2019 at 8:44 am

@Lisa – follow the money? Who is your biggest donor again? Oh yea – the guy poised to make millions by delaying the POKO project. Last time around you complained there wasn’t enough progress – complaining about it still sitting there. It was about to get going and Milligan showed up and caused chaos. Now you’re his biggest fan and advocating not moving forward. I don’t know who you think is making money off the walk bridge other than contractors who are providing jobs. Maybe your personal experience on how you let money influence you is causing you to see things that aren’t there?

Piet Marks September 30, 2019 at 8:52 am

They do not make waterfront property anymore. Last time I checked waterfront property is the most desirable for eventual residential development. Just check out the residential property tax levels on the Five Mile River. Which is crowded with watercraft of all sizes as well. To keep the Norwalk River up stream from the bridge navigable is vital to eventual further redevelopment of the area between West Avenue and the Norwalk River. Is the Mayoral Candidate from Rowayton not aware of this?

Lisa Brinton September 30, 2019 at 9:22 am

Bobby- $1000 donation??? (lol) compared to the mayor’s $150K in 2017 of which 80% came from outside of the city and developers and law firms feeding off Norwalk? Not to mention his $100K this year to date with pretty much the same percentage spread of special interest money. That’s laughable!!!I

My position on POKO has been consistent for over two years – since the project went belly up! Hold Citibank responsible!!! Tear up the LDA and put it on the open market.

Keep beating that campaign finance drum though – because it allows me and others to point out the mayor’s donors – and his six figure fundraising from the people ‘investing’ (lol) in the fortress apartments and receiving tax credits courtesy of the Norwalk taxpayer. Oh – and that affordable housing with POKO – the rental rates are Norwalk market rates according to MLS data I’ve seen. So why exactly are we giving 15 years and millions of dollars in tax credits?

Why has POKO suddenly gone quiet when we were promised an update in September. Election time!

Lisa Brinton September 30, 2019 at 9:28 am

Pete, Then why is diversified housing included in the POCD for up river along the West Ave neighborhood and Wall Street areas that back onto the river? Have you not noticed all the condos and apartments along East Avenue that also back onto the river? Am I missing something? Have you read the Master Plan? I have.

Mike Mushak September 30, 2019 at 10:19 am

@Lisa Brinton: Bobby Lamb and Piet Marks are correct. And you actually seem proud of your alarming lack of knowledge on the long history of our navigable harbor and the Walk Bridge project, a disturbing revelation for a mayoral candidate who wants to lead our city.
A court has already decided the fate of the Walk Bridge, based on the evidence and facts presented in a court of law, not by armchair amateurs (like yourself), but by licensed engineers and professionals. The court determined the state was correct in choosing the movable double span, as the best option for Norwalk to preserve navigation on the upper harbor, and that the state exhausted all other options you seem obsessed about pushing regardless of the facts.
That is troubling to say the least, and speaks to your lack of good judgement and vision for what is best for Norwalk, not just your campaign for mayor. Your willingness to throw all Norwalk taxpayers, including residents and businesses, under the bus for your own short term benefit is astounding.
It almost seems you have never heard of our esteemed Harbor Management Commission, who are sworn under oath to protect public health, safety, and welfare and water-dependent uses and the existing fully navigable federal channel, by implementing the state-approved Harbor Management Plan authorized by the Harbor Management Act.
It is a good document to read, linked here:
https://www.norwalkct.org/963/Harbor-Management-Plan
Pay particular attention to Chapter 2, Goals and Objectives, which has 13 detailed goals that ALL support preserving a fully-navigable federal channel up to Wall Street, to preserve existing and future water-dependent uses, navigation for ALL vessels, commercial use, recreational use including pleasure boats and rowing, ecological function, water quality, flood control, open water for its scenic benefits, property values, neighborhood character, historic maritime heritage, economic growth, and water-based tourism.
Lisa, please read the Harbor Management Plan fully and the enabling state and federal legislation that made it happen, as well as our city charter. Every single one of those issues I mentioned in the last paragraph is affected by maintaining a fully-navigable federal channel with a movable Walk Bridge.
Finally, your comment that “Harbor masters” are against the Walk Bridge is not accurate. Please list them by name if you have them. The folks I talk to including those who work in our valuable oyster industry and recreational boating community, and folks who serve on the Harbor Commission who understand the importance of maintaining that federal channel to water quality and the future of Norwalk, support the Walk Bridge project, although no one is looking forward to the temporary disruption. But we accept the reality that it has to happen.
We understand the need, especially since a catastrophic failure or closing of the bridge would cause an economic loss to the national economy of $100 million per day, or $3 billion per month, not to mention the disaster it would be for Norwalk as 110,000 daily riders on over 200 trains a day suddenly get dumped off at South Norwalk and East Norwalk, needing to be shuttled through our city on buses potentially crippling us for years and affecting the entire city including every taxpayer and business owner in a serious negative way.
In other words, this is way beyond petty politics, but an issue with national economic implications and the protection of public health and safety on the busiest train corridor in the country. It astounds me how flippant Lisa Brinton is on this subject, spreading misinformation about such an important project to our city, state, and nation, just to try to get some votes from reactionary folks who think they can actually stop this project from happening.
This kind of irresponsibility is alarming to witness, and indicates a serious lack of judgement on a whole range of issues.

Jason Milligan September 30, 2019 at 11:30 am

Bobby,

I am the guy you refer to.

And I would love to hear you explain how I am “poised to make millions by delaying the POKO project.”

You also claim that POKO was just about ready to really get going… ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

All I did was expose the chaos and worse.

You are misinformed or deliberately ignorant.

Lisa Brinton September 30, 2019 at 11:57 am

Piet, Call me anything you like. Several do on this site 😆However, in all seriousness, I stand with Mayor Collins the Harbor Commission, Shellfish Commission, former harbor masters and those in shipping, who gave articulate alternate options that are far less disruptive than what the DOT has planned. Have you read the master plan?

Mimi September 30, 2019 at 12:37 pm

I thought NoN was going to cut down on personal attacks or “yuck factor” with their moderation. @Mike Mushak has consistently violated the comments policy. Is he exempt of the rules? And @Bobby Lamb – Have you read the Master Plan? It sure does not sound like it by your comments. It’s great that you voice your opinions, so long as they are informed opinions.

Bryan Meek September 30, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Piet, I agree waterfront land is valuable. So for some of us, it is a real headscratcher that amongst other things about the Walk Bridge project is that it includes a rail yard for Danbury trains on some of our last 5 acres of land on the river. For this we received $5 million for the museum in A/C upgrades when some of our schools still don’t have A/Cs.

So please explain to us why a $billion bridge is needed for the limited traffic on this river and why some of our last 5 acres of land will be permanently scarred with a rail yard for trains that very few in Norwalk ever use.

How does this compare to the Chesapeake Bay bridge ($5 billion to replace) that is 5 miles long, 200 feet in height (nothing moveable), and ferries hundreds of millions of tons of freight underneath it each year?

On one side you seem to be suggesting development like the five mile river, but on the other hand you believe it requires investment like Baltimore Harbor. Very confusing position.

Nancy Chapman September 30, 2019 at 2:23 pm

Mimi, Mike Mushak is questioning the qualifications of a Mayoral candidate. Different rules apply for a Mayoral candidate than for an ordinary citizen and his comments do not fall into the category of a personal attack.

E September 30, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Thank you Bill Collins. Interestingly, I was given a report by a local neighbor/business owner which was a state-commissioned engineering analysis of the bridge several years ago – it clearly offered cost-effective options to repair and replace as compared with this ridiculously supersized and outrageously resource-overboard project. The cost estimated as part of that report was in the very low $millions, btw. Where in Norwalk or Hartford’s files is that analysis now? What of similar repair/replace of swing bridges within our region?

https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/infrastructure/bridges-harlem.shtml
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spuyten_Duyvil_Bridge

Harold Cobin September 30, 2019 at 3:35 pm

Dock Yard was a rail yard and is remaining so. It’s not on the river, it’s under the Yankee Doodle Bridge and adjacent to the transfer station. The property was never available to Norwalk for any use. The state is adding some stub tracks to the yard and extending the catenary through it from the mainline so electric trains can use it to change direction, a need that existed regardless of the Walk Bridge project. The upgrades to the yard have nothing to do with trains on the Danbury Branch.

Mimi September 30, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Thanks for your response, Nancy. With all due respect, there have been many occasions across many articles and comment threads where Mike Mushak has name called, ascribed motives, and personally attacked not only the mayoral candidate, but others as well. He personally attacks Lisa on a weekly basis. What does different rules apply for a mayoral candidate mean? That Mr. Mushak can personally attack Ms. Brinton and get away with it? Why the double standard?

Isabelle Hargrove September 30, 2019 at 5:49 pm

@Mike Mushak. Since you are so confident in your position and so quick to dismiss everyone else, why oppose an independent review? It would give a chance for information to be reviewed with complete transparency by experts, not armchair amateurs like you and I. This appears to be sorely needed because what your lengthy post proves is that there was NO comprehensive study done by NORWALK to decide its future.

I am not so sure that the judge’s decision referred to the questions asked here and this is where this armchair amateur still has questions. He found that DOT did evaluate the options carefully based on the criteria of the project. The relevance of the navigability designation was not reviewed; it was a set criterion, not an issue to revolve.

As far as an accident killing passengers. The closing mechanism of the bridge is unreliable. But the state inspections, conducted in the fall of 2013, did not raise any warning flags. The state rates all bridges on a 0-9 scale. The Walk Bridge’s superstructure was rated a 4 and its substructure rated 5. Four is a “poor,” or structurally deficient, rating and 5 is a “fair” rating.

“Given the age of the structure, these are actually pretty remarkable numbers,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick. “The numbers reflect the condition of an aging bridge, but in no way reflect on how safe the bridge is. That is indeed verifiable – the bridge is absolutely safe – and if not for the mechanical ailments, the bridge would probably be serviceable for another 25 years.”

https://ctmirror.org/2014/06/24/number-of-deficient-ct-bridges-on-the-rise/

So it appears no one will die from a stay…

Bryan Meek September 30, 2019 at 7:50 pm

@Harold wrote….”it’s not on the river….it’s under the Yankee Doodle Bridge.” Thanks for clarifying for me that the Yankee Doodle Bridge isn’t over a river….I guess I must have imagined that. And also, that apparently the state is incapable of repurposing any state owned lands for appropriate use. Norwalk just gets to eat a rail yard purposed for trains that serve very few of us because….well just because.

Mike Mushak September 30, 2019 at 8:18 pm

@Mimi, your comment is noted, although I generally don’t respond to anonymous comments.

I’d ask you to please read through Lisa Brinton’s comments on NON going back years, starting with today. . Almost 100% of her comments are full of vitriol and personal attacks, ad nauseum, not just directed at Mayor Rilling but at city staff and volunteer appointees, as well as those awful “renters” who are destroying Norwalk for all the virtuous “homeowners”.

There will always be folks who dish it out regularly but suddenly get offended when they are held accountable, and Lisa Brinton has been dishing it out since she started running. Again, read her comments. It’s all complaints and no solutions. Sadly, Lisa is her own worst enemy.

Residente September 30, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Where are the environmental impact studies and cost justifications for this?

Sounds fancy, I’m sure it will be nice to have, and an eyesore, but shouldn’t DOT have higher priorities.

Why not repair the existing bridge.. aside from Devine Bros there really isn’t much up the river to justify this costly interruption.

Nancy Chapman September 30, 2019 at 9:46 pm

Mimi,

Lisa Brinton is running for Mayor. Public figures are subject to more scrutiny than private citizens. Mike Mushak is questioning her qualifications as a Mayoral candidate. They are not personal attacks, and Mayor Rilling has been subject to similar commentary.

Alan Kibbe October 1, 2019 at 1:34 pm

No one denies the need for the Walk Bridge to be resilient and maintained in top condition due to its importance to our regional economy. During my thirty-plus years living in Norwalk, it has been an eyesore of a rusting hulk, apparently receiving little attention in the way of maintenance. Something new with a DOT committed to maintaining it would be welcome in our community, however the cost of the present project is astonishing and will grow as the project continues.
While controversy over the need for the bridge to open dominates discussion about the replacement program, there are other questions which should to be asked about choices previously made which do warrant an expert design and engineering review. Both the cost of construction and the cost of ownership must be reviewed, particularly because a lifting bridge will have a vastly greater cost of ownership than a fixed version.
There are three bridges which limit traffic into the Upper Norwalk Harbor: The Stroffolino Bridge with a charted horizontal clearance of 100 feet, the Interstate 95 Bridge with a horizontal clearance of 100 feet, and the Walk Bridge with two 55 foot horizontal clearances, one on either side of the pivot pier. The question becomes, why does the DOT propose that we build 240-foot long spans and lift them 60 feet in the air, when what we have had for over 100 years is less than half that horizontal clearance. Why not a 55-foot or 75-foot lifting span? The longer the span the greater the cost to build it. Obviously, the longer the span, the heavier it is.
The weight of the 240-foot spans is important because it drives other construction costs. The end piers of a fixed span need only support the weight of the span. Lifting the span immediately doubles the load on the end piers since those foundations must not only support the spans, but also an equal amount of counterweight. Of course lifting the spans requires the addition of massive towers to support the counterweight and the bridge span which also must be bourne by the end foundations. Then one adds the dynamic loads on the foundation of 15-story towers and a 240-foot span hanging on aircraft cable during a hurricane. So there is a significant foundation cost penalty for an unnecessarily longer span and another, much larger, cost penalty for foundations for a moving span.
This leads to another question. What is the real cost to lift this bridge beyond that for a fixed version that does not require monumental foundations, colossal towers, and counterweights? I believe the DOT’s 11% number is questionable. I spent part of my career involved in the design and construction of really large moving structures, and this cost differential doesn’t make sense to me.
I think the City deserves a delay until we have expert opinion, from outside the DOT, presented to the community. I believe there is a less-costly, less-disruptive, less-complex alternative to be found.

Kathleen Montgomery October 1, 2019 at 9:36 pm

Mike Mushak, I am grateful for your insights, information, and knowledge always included in your comments. Thank you.

Mike Mushak October 2, 2019 at 7:02 am

Thank you Dorothy and Kathleen.

I’ve been attending public meetings on the bridge for about 3 years, advocating for public access and waterfront bike/pedestrian connections under the bridge on the routes of the Norwalk River Valley Trail and Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail that I have been working on expanding for over 10 years. . I also see the bridge from every room in my house, and it’s design has been important to me as a resident, business owner, planning commissioner, and advocate for Norwalk.

Despite some who have said the bridge will dominate the skyline, that’s not true. It will be about 100 feet shorter than than the current catenary towers, which will be removed. We pushed for saving the catenary towers in early meetings as we thought they were an iconic symbol of Norwalk, but they are obsolete and were in the way of construction (they were built so tall in 1895 to get wires above the masts of tall sailing ships.)

At one point Lisa Brinton and her biggest supporter Jason Milligan were pushing misinformation about the bridge’s size, confusing the height and the width, saying it would be nearly twice as tall as it will be. This is why I monitor their comments and always respond to their claims, because spreading misinformation to the public is a dangerous thing for a mayoral candidate to be doing, especially in these times of fake news and social media.

Mike Mushak October 2, 2019 at 7:21 am

@Alan Kibbe, you make a valid point, so I went to the Walk Bridge website as anyone can do (they also have an office in the old Thai restaurant on Water St across from the Aquarium, where questions can be answered.)

This is from the website:

“240’Vertical Lift Bridge

The selected bridge design reduces construction risk by allowing the existing swing
span to remain operational
while the new bridge towers and foundations are constructed. The length of the 240’ Vertical Lift Span maximizes work that can be accomplished without disrupting rail and river traffic and shortens the overall schedule.”

I would imagine the loss of an estimated $100 million a day in economic productivity if the bridge, on the busiest rail corridor in the nation, had to be fully shut down had something to do with it the design decisions. That would be a loss of $1 billion in 10 days, or $3 billion a month.

Also, no one has mentioned in this thread the replacement of 3 other obsolete train bridges in Norwalk as part of this project, on Fort Point, Osborne, and East Ave., as well as the widening of Water St to allow for wider sidewalks that are currently dangerously narrow. The new bridges will fix current traffic bottlenecks, especially on Fort Point and East Avenue.

We can assume there will be value added to quality of life, property values, traffic flow, and economic productivity in Norwalk once this project is complete, and a minimizing of future disruptions for decades to come.

Trucks will also have to stop snaking through residential streets of East Norwalk to get around the low clearance on East Ave, improving those neighborhoods as well as that has been a big problem for years, something surprisingly the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association seemed to be OK with as they strongly opposed the East Ave bridge widening project. Strange.

Alan Kibbe October 4, 2019 at 2:50 pm

@Mike Mushak

Both the Walk Bridge website and information office on Marshall Street are sales and marketing tools for the design approach the DOT and City have chosen. The statement you cite does not say that this is the only way the bridge can be rebuilt. We all understand the importance of the railway remaining operational during this project, so I don’t see your point in implying that an alternative approach means shutting down the railway.
I think building 2 240-foot long spans and lifting them 60-feet in the air to replace the existing swing bridge which currently gives us one 55-foot navigable channel is absurd. Everything about it is enormously out of scale with what needs to be accomplished for this bridge and for our City.

Think for a moment about the scale of the Mystic River Highway Bridge just South of The Mystic Seaport. It provides marine access to the seaport, a substantial and very active body of water, for a considerable number of commercial and recreational vessels. This bridge has a 65-foot horizontal clearance which is adequate to get the Amistad, the Mayflower II, the Charles W. Moragn, and the Sabino upriver and down with an opening only one quarter the size of what is proposed for the Walk Bridge.

Granted, the Mystic Bridge only carries two lanes of US 1, but it is of a scale appropriate for South Norwalk and the needs of our Upper Harbor. This is also a bascule bridge, like our Stroffolino Bridge, which does not require any support towers from which to hang the moving spans and their counterweights. The only thing that gets close to the skyline with this type of bridge is the span itself when it opens, which would be much easier on the eyes than two permanent massive towers like the London Bridge.

You mentioned that, looking down from your residence, the existing towers don’t seem to dominate the skyline and make the case that the proposed towers are 100-feet shorter, and therefore, even less obvious. The existing towers only carry the railroad’s signal wires and Eversource’s high voltage transmission lines. They don’t support the tracks and have nothing to do with the existing bridge. They could be taken down tomorrow by relocating the wires and cables. Consequently, these towers are lightly framed because they carry a very, very light load….just wires. The proposed span and counterweight support towers are massive, supporting hundreds of tons, and appear almost solid in the renderings of the project. They will be like having two slabs of the 50 Washington Street tower guarding the river like a Colossus.

You know from your much-appreciated volunteer work in Planning and Zoning that architectural renderings are sales tools for any project. They are intended to make a project look as desirable as possible to whomever is looking at them. The architect and engineers know what the project will look like. If I were creating a rendering for your committee, and knew your interests, I would be sure to put a couple of bicyclists in the picture. This project is no different. These renderings are drawn in a way that diminishes the apparent height of the towers.

You noted yourself that the existing towers look small from the top of a hill. Most of the renderings we have seen are from an aerial perspective or from a viewpoint about five stories above the deck of the Stroffolino Bridge. None are from a South Norwalk street-level vantage point. They will dominate the 5-story SONO skyline.

The City of Norwalk deserves better and Connecticut could save some money. What has been lacking is leadership that says, “Wow, I love this half-Billion dollar design. Now let me see what we can get for $350 Million.”

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