I respectfully disagree with friends and neighbors who think the Walk Bridge should be downgraded. Or rather, who think the upper Norwalk River should be downgraded, perhaps to a passive waterway with water taxis taking passengers back and forth, as some have suggested.
In fact, I think the Zoning Commission should address the status of the river, remind us all of its historic and strategic value, and revise the local regulations to encourage its active use as an appropriate industry waterway. Some small industries are even knocking at our door, saying our location on Long Island Sound is ideal for their needs and the services they can provide.
On the other hand, I, like many readers of our various media, complain daily about the heavy truck traffic on our local roads, and the resulting damage to our infrastructure. We worry about exhaust fumes, accidents, jammed roads.
In fact, I suggest we all take a step back and look at the role the river has played in our past and could play in our future.
We are blessed by our location that allows beautiful beaches and a river that once carried commerce, even to far-off destinations.
Then we built a rail system and roads to take us and our vehicles where we want to go. The river became less important to our daily lives, except for the few businesses that survive to help us build more structures and roads.
Today, locally, many construction businesses rely on trucks to haul the materials for expansion. And of course, they use our roads.
But a barge can carry the equivalent of 120-plus loads of gravel or cement. Industry leaders tell us that hauling by waterway is environmentally cleaner and safer.
Further, not all potential businesses involve barges. But that’s not the whole picture.
Do not under-estimate the need for dredging in the future. Cost to the city to do it ourselves would be prohibitive, wiping out savings we might see today if we went to a fixed bridge that eliminated federal funding.
Secondly, the U.S. Coast Guard supports the present proposal for multiple reasons. See walkbridgect.com for full information, and the need “to meet current standards for flooding, storms, powerful winds, extreme temperatures and seismic activity.”
This point is truly relevant. I’m not in a position to read the minds of the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who warn about floods and storms. Maybe they are thinking of global warming. Maybe they are looking back at catastrophic historical events.
The threat of 100-year floods along the river are historically accurate. Read about the “horrendous” flood of 1854 and how it toppled buildings into the river. (“Norwalk: Being An Historical Account of That Connecticut Town,” by Deborah Wing Ray and Gloria P. Stewart.) Think about how history was repeated when the 1955 flood devastated downtown Norwalk, again toppling buildings. Think about how close we are to the 2050’s…
Thirdly, the Coast Guard is now under the Department of Homeland Defense. Think about that.
I agree with those who say the Walk Bridge as currently planned should go on to completion. Along with that, our city planners should take a serious look at making the river a viable, and safe, commercial waterway for our future.
Former Norwalk Zoning Commission chairwoman
Wife to Norwalk Harbor Management Commissioner Tony Mobilia