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ConnDOT should rebuild Walk Bridge, as planned

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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.

Dorothy Mobilia

Former Norwalk Zoning Commission chairwoman

Wife to Norwalk Harbor Management Commissioner Tony Mobilia

13 comments

Rob October 13, 2019 at 8:19 am

Do we really want industry lining our beautiful river now is the time to change it
Maybe a nice river walk lined with retail and dining connecting to all the new housing
In the area cement factories and recycling centers are not a good idea

Isabelle Hargrove October 13, 2019 at 11:30 am

The commercial activities mentioned in this letter seem better suited for the lower harbor closer to the channel. This is not New Haven harbor. By the way, the new POCD seems to agree with that based on rezoning to residential use in certain areas.

On the resilience standards. It is not a binary choice, armageddon bridge versus no new bridge. We can build a resilient new bridge that works with our size and density harbor.

There are also many assumptions and oversimplifications in this letter about dredging and just how limiting a lower-clearance bridge would be based on newer technologies.

Again, the residents of Norwalk are asking for the city to do its due diligence. The mayor should have done it years ago. There should have been a study to evaluate all the elements described in the numerous opinion pieces written by individuals. We need to do that study and get clear answers, not opinions.

Norwalk deserves this much before we agree to this permanent eyesore! How will we feel in 10 years looking at this monstrosity as we realize it was not necessary? Isn’t that sinking feeling worth the time and inquiry now?

Mike Mushak October 13, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Good letter. It’s important to keep the facts out there.

Our state-approved Norwalk Harbor Management Plan, which is based on state and federal enabling legislation and which Norwalk is required by law to administrate and enforce through the Harbor Management Commission, has 13 “Goals and Objectives” listed in Chapter 2 that all support maintaining the roughly 2 miles of water-dependent uses, both current and potential, along the one mile of current federal channel north of the Walk Bridge. (I’m not able to share the link right now but it’s on the city website, or if you Google the full name of the plan starting with Norwalk, it will come up).

@Isabelle Hargrove, the various options were studied to death by engineers already, in both the public and private sector.

The current plan was the best one based on long lists of pros and cons for various other options, which were all presented in public meetings over the years.

You can find out more at the Walk Bridge Office on Water St where the old Thai restaurant was.

Bryan Meek October 13, 2019 at 3:33 pm

You could have shortened this to, I’ll say whatever my party leaders tell me to, even if it includes being the dumping ground for DOT’s job security projects that add little value to Norwalk, but pad the pockets of the politically connected without any regard for quality of life issues in Norwalk. Who is the genius that thought it would be a good idea to tear up the Merritt, Yankee Doodle, and Stroffolino Bridges all at the same time? You’d think our local leaders would have asked DOT to consider doing only one or two at the same time instead of destroying local traffic conditions. But no, we are just pushovers for whatever Hartford wants to do here and the bonus is we get to pay for it.

Tysen Canevari October 13, 2019 at 8:37 pm

We should have water taxis with windows in the channel so that the people can see and smell the sewer waste being pumped out of the Smith ST sewage treatment plant. Even the fish need to plug their noses in that area. I think Mrs Mobilia and Mr Mushak have ten signs each on their properties that read Vote Rilling! What a coincedence. Politics is like money: Makes people do funny things

Victor Cavallo October 13, 2019 at 9:28 pm

Anyone with any appreciation for SONO as an arts, culture and gastronomic mecca should be aghast at the prospect of 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, in retrospect, 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 what: the occasional barge to Devine Brothers and the occasional sailboat during summer?

Ed October 13, 2019 at 9:47 pm

What companies are planning to set up industrial plants along the Norwalk river? I kind of think everyone in the town would prefer residential housing, retail, or waterside dining. If I wanted to build an industrial plant, I’d pick somewhere else with more land and less congestion. This is 2019 not 1819.

Plus, from my understanding, there are low profile tug boats for the current companies on the river and low profile dredging barges. There is no need for a lift bridge.

Isabelle Hargrove October 13, 2019 at 10:35 pm

@ Mike Mushak. NO WRONG !! The various options were NOT studied to death by engineers already, in both the public and private sectors.

The current plan was the best based on the parameters that were given to the DOT engineers. We didn’t study the parameters and we should have. The questions raised in the comments were NEVER asked of DOT and it was not their job to review the legitimacy of the parameters they were given.

Show us the study that outlines the pros and cons of changing the navigability standard of the upper harbor. No study was ever ordered. This administration was badly taken off guard. The project started and before they could turn around, a monster was being designed. No one has the courage to admit they didn’t think about studying the needs of the upper harbor. Well, we should.

I am not ashamed to say that I wish I had been more vocal all along. Mayor Rilling should not be ashamed to admit we need to do our due diligence now. Better late than never.

This is one more reason I will vote for Lisa Brinton. She is humble enough to admit there are many questions never asked and answered about this project that will change our city forever. She is willing to ask the tough questions, give Norwalk the time and experts to study the questions, and make sure decisions are made with transparency. Refreshing to me and badly needed for Norwalk!

JustsTaxpayer October 13, 2019 at 11:20 pm

After all the blathering, I like what Ed posted. Let’s just think for a second versus being a Democrat

Rusty Guardrail October 14, 2019 at 12:13 am

I seldom visit Sono anyway. It’s just a bunch of drunk tanks now, and a mall full of glitzy overpriced stores not really geared to Norwalk.

Dorothy Mobilia October 14, 2019 at 11:28 am

Tyson, nice to see you are still living in the neighborhood. Yes, I am a Democrat, and as you could tell, more powerful Dems than I oppose this bridge. I’m more interested in an asset, the north end of the river, that could be home to appropriate industries that perhaps want to work with similar small industries or commercial endeavors, farms and small producers, along our Connecticut shore or on Long Island without the hassle and inflexibility of clogging up our roads. There are many cities around the country that use their rivers in creative and even charming ways, but boldly. They even have a few water taxis in the mix. This is a beautiful city, with an historical river, and there is no shame in having it a working city. That doesn’t mean belching smoking smokestacks everywhere. You do have a say in what you will support. The present plans for the Walk Bridge can help us to make the convenience and safety viable, for all the reasons I listed in my letter.

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