Alvord: Traffic signal pole had corroded from within

Norwalk DPW Chief Hal Alvord
Norwalk DPW Chief Hal Alvord said he would like to get a new traffic light up at the intersection of Main and Wall Streets as soon as possible.

Updated 4:43 p.m., CL&P has not determined cause of Main Street explosion.

NORWALK, Conn. – A traffic signal pole that collapsed Saturday and sent eight traffic lights crashing onto Wall Street had corroded from within, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said Tuesday.

Alvord said the pole had been brought to him to look at. “It corroded from the inside. There was no indication on the outside of the pole that it had rusted through or anything like that,” Alvord said. “The last time we had worked on that light was late fall of last year. Every time we work on a light we do a visual inspection of all the components.” 

The pole at the intersection of Main and Wall Streets collapsed at about 8 p.m. Saturday. Norwalk Police Sgt. Terrence Blake said, “An officer in the area investigating a motor vehicle accident heard a crash and then located the pole down.  It appeared to have fallen over based on the officer’s report.  The report indicates that the traffic lights at the intersection of Wall/Main were the only ones downed.”

No one was injured. Alvord said he would research how much each of the lights weighed, as it varies, and provide that information Wednesday.

He said he thought DPW would be able to get a wooden pole from one of the electric companies the department works with. There are components in storage that can be used tos replace the light “fairly quickly,” he said.

That would be temporary, he said. Norwalk has been replacing traffic signals in phases with federal grant money. The idea now is to work that light into Phase III, which is being designed now, he said.

“That’s why we were so interested in getting our entire traffic signal system replaced. We have been very fortunate to get now up to $9 million,” Alvord said.

There were 15 traffic lights replaced in Phase I and eight replaced in Phase II, he said. He expects to replace 10 more in Phase III.

“We started in what I’ll call the urban core,” Alvord said. “The initial 15 went into South Norwalk, MLK and that kind of thing, then we’re spreading outward from there. The second phase started to spread out from the urban core, the next phase is going to go out yet another step. There are 85 signals in the city’s system so it’s going to take us a while, depending on how much we can get.”

The collapsed pole was down the block from an underground explosion about a month ago, in front of the New York Bakery. Alvord said he didn’t think the two events were connected. “My expectation is if it had it would have probably happened at the time of the explosion,” Alvord said, adding that the two spots weren’t really that close.

He said he was told the explosion was due to an electrical malfunction. CL&P spokesperson Tricia Taskey Modifica said, “At this time we are still investigating to determine the exact cause of this explosion.”

Work at the intersection of Main and Wall has been contemplated for some time, Alvord said. First there was talk of redesigning the crosswalks at Landmark Square, he said. When that turned out to be too expensive, there was talk of working intersection improvements into the Head of the Harbor development.

Some NoN commenters have said the intersection is working better without traffic lights. Alvord said he had been down there and although it was chaotic, people were being cordial in figuring out what to do.

“It’s not the same as having a traffic signal. So it seems to be working OK right now, but I want to get them replaced as quickly as we can,” he said. “…We’re going to sit down and look at whether or not we can put that back into Phase III, which is in design right now.  In fact we already have a design to do that sitting on a shelf. We would like to put that into Phase III, that is what I would like to do.”


33 responses to “Alvord: Traffic signal pole had corroded from within”

  1. Paul

    Sorry for the thread sabotage. Can non do a real story on the cost of the city’s fireworks?? Someone touted they took in 40k, but what is the real cost,ie. payment to fireworks company, pd, fd, parks overtime, dumpster and bathroom rentals, the cafe stock purchases, etc. I’ll bet the fireworks cost us taxpayers about 40k.

  2. Suzanne

    From a Google Search: “How to inspect a metal signal light pole”, a Federal Highway Administration Report, “http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/signinspection03.cfmA, Section 12.3.2.
    “12.3.2: If hand hole covers cannot be removed to check for internal corrosion, an ultrasonic thickness gauge should be employed to check the pole thickness and possible internal corrosion.”
    A little light reading, took ten minutes and shows the standard for proper inspection of metal signal poles, especially with the potentially corrosive weather in Norwalk.
    “… traffic signal pole that collapsed Saturday and sent eight traffic lights crashing onto Wall Street had corroded from within, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said Tuesday.
    If this is the excuse Mr. Alvord is making for the collapse of that pole with potentially catastrophic results, Norwalk got lucky, there were plenty of ways to inspect such poles for structural integrity. Is visual inspection it for Norwalk? Can we expect more such failures with such a lucky outcome?

  3. Don’t Panic

    Why can we only get maintenance in the way of complete replacements with federal money? What else is not being maintained and inspected as part of routine operations? Why was the federal money used to install signals we didn’t need instead of fixing existing ones?
    Why is the phasing being done by location instead of by Prioritizing the poles in the worst condition? Could it be because we don’t have a database on those poles to ensure each and every one is inspected every few years–one that would tell us we need replacements before they fall down?

  4. Taxpayer Fatigue

    “Corroded from within”? You can clearly see rust on the pole in the photos. I drove through the intersection yesterday at 5:10pm, there was the usual heavy traffic, but it was flowing smoothly and there weren’t the big long back ups that there usually are when there before the traffic signals fell down. I guess having lots of expensive traffic signals provides jobs…

  5. Suzanne

    Don’t Panic, that is a great question. I had the experience of working with a great IT person located at the Public Works offices who generated complicated GPS data for me using a fairly sophisticated software. Relational database software, like Access, are often a part of the Windows suite or are nominally priced. The same data could be tracked using an Excel spread sheet.
    Somehow, it does not seem like the Department of Public Works has a list of anything in terms of pro-active management of maintenance, the staff required to complete the myriad tasks and when they are scheduled to do it.
    With yet another failure, it seems as though a reactive DPW is just not working. This points to ineffective management and Mr. Alvord is the lightening rod at the top. He does not seem to be setting much of an example.
    I want to know how long Mr. Rilling is going to wait, I mean will it take a fatality, extensive material loss, what?, before a really good manager with organizational skills and the engineering expertise will replace Mr. Alvord. Norwalk just pushed its luck a little further down the road.

  6. One and Done

    Traffic lights that work would be the best solution. The problem before was they were timed rather than sensory. You sit on East Wall going south at that red light for minutes while no one is even coming down Main or up Wall. Don’t just put the same lights back up, fix them.

  7. Don’t Panic

    I wouldn’t question Mr. Alvord’s engineering experience. He has plenty. He just chooses not to use it in service of modern city planning.
    As to Mr. Alvord’s quote “In fact we already have a design to do that sitting on a shelf.”. I would like to know if that plan is also on the city web site, and if so, where?

  8. potaxpayer

    SUZANNE for mayor shes a expert on everything from traffic lights and engineering to illegal immigration. thank god for transplanted n.y.ers. us dummys in ct would never figure it out on our own.

  9. potaxpayer

    try looking up a book called the MUTCD for traffic standards know it all’s

  10. spanner

    Thank you NON puts to rest the a car hitting it it now lets take some of that grant money for nonsense and give it to Hal seems Ct hasn’t got a dime for us.

    What else is not being maintained and inspected as part of routine operations?

    A recently released White House report says Connecticut has the worst roads and bridges in the country, according to the Hartford Business Journal.Hows that for an answer.Maybe the rail report will now say the same.

    Bob Duff didn’t sit on the transportation committee in the drivers seat?Maybe he can shed some light on what the city could do,he has done a great job evading any subject before the election.

    This points out what the city voters wanted and up till now the information and uncovering of facts was without a decent media outlet until NON came along.

    Maybe a list can be formulated on other things in Norwalk that need attention also ,Wall st is not the olny part of the city that needs an overhaul or repairs.The bridge in Sono over washington st will need replacing as well.That is one of the worst in Ct as well and was considered in the White House report.

    Why was the federal money used to install signals we didn’t need instead of fixing existing ones?

    Ask Bob Duff if anyone in Norwalk knows its him.

    I realize Wall st is important but its not the only problem Norwalk has most of us could care less after reading the police reports on Monday knowing it gets enough attention from our city services on the weekend.

    Whats Rowayton taxpayers think of all this,they want out support we want theirs,they do vote for Mayors and have in the past help create this problem as well.Someone needs to explain to them more money from them is needed and I doubt if thats going to be received well.

    Taxpayers have failed to take over the city now developers that were embraced by non profits and start up ventures years ago as a way to get personal agendas thru think pro active involvment now will make us all forget the slight of hand played on long time born and raised residents.All we here is the new age group and crowd coming to Norwalk where those very same old timers are targeted as problems or simply disrespected.
    by those trying to change the city with hair brain ideas you have what we have now.

    The new mall meetings are somewhat insulting, in South Norwalk some politicians ply arogance to those not on the same page.Larry for one shooting out of his chair towards a long time respected resident because the queston asked was negative or hit a nerve and Morris organizing the pet project or wish list group.The south Norwalk meeting was a joke they presented enough material to take up all the time so when it was time to ask questions it was like the super bowl game,have to end the meeting got to go.In fact there was another meeting some had to go to after so any chance of keeping the meeting going beyond the time was already set in stone before the meeting started.

    So if Hal Alvord seems disrespectful he has a lot of company out there.

  11. Nora King

    Is there anything that Hal cannot spin? He could sell ice to the Eskimos.

  12. John Frank sr

    The fact is the pole collapsed and only after it went down was it inspected to reveal considerable corrosion on the inside. Alvord should have the tools to check on these poles, and a regular schedule to inspect them. We were lucky this time. We should not gamble on being that lucky the next time. Buy the tools and establish a schedule before the next one collapses and kills somebody.

  13. Mike Mushak

    The stop signs are working great so far! Isn’t it better for emergency response time as well? I say don’t replace the lights for a few months, and lets do a “test and learn” period. Perhaps there will be lemonade made out of lemons here.

  14. peter parker

    Corroded from within, not much different than Alvord’s management of the DPW.

  15. Victor Cavallo

    If everyone expects that light poles and other public works assets be inspected comprehensively then the City has to provide capital and operating funds (and employees or contract help) for a comprehensive inspection program. And frequent inspections of public work assets would be daunting enough, let alone doing it manually with an incomplete inventory of assets. For years, DPW has applied for capital funds for GIS Infrastructure Mapping; taking a video inventory of assets and adding it to the City’s existing GIS so that DPW can store, manipulate, analyze, and manage the inventory data.  This would include assets such as catch basins, manholes fire hydrants and traffic signals.  It would even include mapping signage, pavement markings and trees. Their request has consistently been denied inclusion in the capital budget.  Maybe it’s time to re-think this.

  16. Anonymous

    Victor well put. The problem with all of these posters is that they have all the answers. Sidewalks, light poles, street paving. They complained about the unions and the trash pickup, so the city gets a private firm to run the trash service to save money, and they complain about the new service and that they want the old workers back. They all must be loaded as they have nothing to do but comment on an Internet news site all day about what they would do. If only everybody else had the answers that some of these geniuses have.. Continue on telling everybody what the city should do and how you’ll complain when they do it.

  17. spanner

    @Victor your right but some forget the facts.

    Take fire hydrants the only time they are usually checked is when you need one.In Boston the fire dept has their own hydrant system 17 miles of it and its own pumping stations .Cant miss them they are all red.

    Because Norwalk has more than one system SNEW does South Norwalk who does the rest of the city?The city needs a program and inventory data system for this one very important issue but has the fire dept come forewood asking for this as well?

    I’m not sure but I doubt if the fire dept checks any of them yet they are the ones who need them the most.

  18. Don’t Panic

    Just what did cities do BEFORE GIS mapping software? Why can’t we rely on the best practices that existed before software?

  19. Wall Street Neighbor

    Cavallo – I agree that DPW’s request to map the infrastructure should have been funded as well as there request for a document management system. If I recall correctly, the Planning Commission has consistently denied the request from DPW and never recommended it.

  20. Anonymous

    @Spanner– Once again YOU need to check YOUR facts. SNEW is an electric company. They don’t deal with hydrants. I’m starting to question everything you say as its full of holes..

    1. Mark Chapman


      Always good to Google before firing off retorts. Spanner certainly has some areas that deserve serious questioning, but fire service is not one (yes, I know who he is from here and from a previous stint in a mid-size Massachusetts city). To to the SNEW site, click on hydrant flushing. The EW in SNEW stands for Electric and Water…

  21. Victor Cavallo

    Hey Wall Street Neighbor; you are the champeen and proud of you… but you’re wrong about the Planning Commission. They recommended this at least twice in the past 6 years but the recommendation didn’t survive the capital budget process. You may have been on the council when it was up for a vote and it was trashed. But you rock.

  22. peter parker

    You can debate funding and cast blame all around town, but it comes down to one issue, and that would be Alvord! You can give Alvord all he asks for and he will still do a poor lackluster job! Among other things, Alvord is an incompetent and until he is removed from the position of DPW Director this city will suffer the consequences! Wake up Harry and do the right thing, or Alvord and McCarty will surely bring you down!

  23. One and Done

    Listen to SpiderWatts. He’d have us spend every nickel on pension packages and abuses in workman’s comp and still find a way to pave the streets in gold all while not paying his own taxes.

  24. Resident

    Looking at that “Main & Wall” building, with the font straight out of 1970, reminds me of how far this city has yet to come. Lots of work to be done. Not insurmountable, and worth fighting for, but our infrastructure is literally crumbling beneath (or in this case, on top of) us. Scary.

  25. Kevin Di Mauro

    I really am quite amazed, and satisfied with the performance of Hal Alvord and Dennis McCarthy who keep this city functioning as well as they do in spite of insufficient funding and inflated discrimination accusations.
    Those in charge of the city’s purse strings seem to have no problem with giving money for parks and rec. projects that bring fun and good times to the public, but try to get some money for new public utilities equipment, or fire department related issues. It’s a different story. It’s THE CITY that needs to reevaluate it’s priorities.

  26. Don’t Panic

    Hal’s doing just fine wringing money out of the state and the feds for bells and whistles projects, but the cup is out and jangling for stuff as basic as paving the roads.
    we have fiber optic controlled traffic lights, but can’t keep water street from flooding. We have digital tracking of snow plows, but had to outsource our garbage pickup.
    It’s not how much we are spending, it’s what we’re not spending it on.

  27. Mike Mushak

    I agree with Victor Cavallo. Cue the trumpets. Seriously, if we want a first class DPW we have to stop pretending they can do more with less. Better management is one issue we can argue, but more funding is an issue as well. The two are interconnected. Our decision-making process for funding department requests needs improvement for sure, but we also need assurance that the departments will spend those funds wisely. It’s like the chicken and the egg argument, I guess.

  28. Suzanne

    Better management does not automatically occur with more money. In fact, trying to solve money problems with money is the big NO of finance 101 (if you read any of that personal money management stuff, anyway.)

  29. Don’t Panic

    I am sorry Mr. Mushak, but the first order of business is to redirect funds where they are needed most. There is an opportunity cost to tying up city resources with projects we dont need. We have a city of 85,000 people that thinks it needs what a city of 850,000 needs.
    We got more money from the state to IMPROVE our traffic lights. And we put new ones up while others were ready to fall down. That is exhibit A in why more money won’t fix this problem.
    And while we are on that subject, if DPW really needs more money to do the basics (ie an asset inventory with a maintenance schedule) then how can we possibly justify borrowing millions to put a driving range and other improvements into oak hills park?

  30. One and Done

    Sorry Suzanne, actually Finance 101 says you do the projects that have the greatest return. The law of diminishing returns you are referencing is an Econ 101 principle.
    Examples of Finance 101 returns analysis….
    For example 4.5 million of risk in a driving range that will return profit is a worthy project.
    4.5 million on sand lot that some call a farm that will return no money and attract 1/100th of the visitors that a full service golf club will is a less worthy one.
    Lights on a ball field that will return no money compared to the costs to maintain is not worthy.
    Overhead traffic lights that won’t kill someone and get the city sued is a worthy project.

  31. Suzanne

    Whatever the nomenclature, if you have poor management that does not know how to use the money it is already allotted, then adding money to the problem will not fix it. The same inappropriate assignment of funds will occur because that is the way the management knows how to use it. There is not conferred wisdom with more money – just more money to spend in foolish ways.

  32. Colin G

    @Mike Mushak I agree using this interchange in my car and on My Bicycle on the way to and from work in SoNo has been a breeze much better than having a light. 30″ stop signs are about $90 each, we need 6 so if we round up that’s $600 in signs and probably another couple hundred for extras so call it $1000. This is way less than the “New &Better” black fiber optic whiz-bang lights that have been going u to the tune of $300,000 each. What do we need to do to get a road diet and a leave it alone test?

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