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Feds grant CT $161M for $465M Walk Bridge replacement work

Metro-North workers attempt to close the Walk Bridge all the way Friday, June 6, in Norwalk.
Metro-North workers attempt to close the Walk Bridge all the way Friday, June 6, in Norwalk.

 

Updated 4:46 p.m. with comment from the governor’s office about funding the entire project.

NORWALK, Conn. – The state has received $161 million federal grant to be used for design and replacement of the Walk Bridge, the New Haven Line’s railroad bridge over the Norwalk River, according to an announcement from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Malloy has requested $349 million for the project, which is expected to cost $465 million.

“The reliability of the Walk Bridge and the New Haven Line is of critical importance to the entire Northeast Corridor. Too many people depend on the commuter line to continue to see the kinds of disruptions we saw over the summer,” said Malloy in a press release.

The 118-year-old bridge malfunctioned twice in a two-week period, in May and June.

In April, Malloy announced the state had applied for $600 million in federal transportation funding to help cover the capital costs of three resiliency, or “hardening,” projects central to Connecticut’s commuter rail infrastructure along the New Haven Line, the release said, including $349 million in federal funding to cover 75 percent of the cost of the Walk Bridge Replacement Project.

The grant comes up short of the requested funding – $198 million – in addition to the $116.3 million that comprises the remaining 25 percent cost of the project not request from the federal government.

Malloy spokesman Peter Yazbak explained the financing Wednesday afternoon in response  to a NancyOnNorwalk inquiry.

“We expect the construction of the replacement bridge will begin in 2016 and be completed in 2019 at a cost of $465 million,” he said. “When today’s announcement is combined with existing state funds that are designated for the project, we have roughly $277 million to put toward replacement.  We also have the ability to move funding from other out-year projects into the Walk Bridge project and make it work over the next five years.  Expenses will be assessed in the coming months, and any additional funding needs will be addressed as the projects moves forward.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) addressed the need for additional funding, as quoted in the Malloy-issued release.

“The catastrophic, repeat failures at the Walk Bridge earlier this year – the result of decades of decay, deferred maintenance and neglect – caused intolerable delays, disrupting thousands of commuters along the nation’s busiest rail line,” Blumenthal said, referring to the grant as a “down payment.”

“… I will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Governor Malloy to identify additional federal resources to strengthen our critical transportation infrastructure and assure unimpeded rail service throughout the region,” he said. “We must invest now in our rail and transportation infrastructure, or pay later with escalating failures, severe traffic congestion and diminished opportunities for economic development.”

On June 9, following a Walk Bridge “crisis summit” with Metro-North, Malloy announced the establishment of a Short Term Action Team (STAT) charged with reviewing, investigating and determining the best approach to improve the mechanical reliability of the Walk Bridge. The report that resulted from STAT’s work outlined a series of modifications to be made to improve the operating systems and reliability of the bridge until the bridge can be replaced. The state made $3 million available for work including:

  • Establishing a separate drive system to open and close the movable pieces of rail that lock the bridge into place;
  • Installing electronic switches;
  • Implementing repairs to rollers and rods in the center pier on which the bridge pivots;
  • Readjusting the gear and shaft system to properly align wedges at either end of the movable span that lock it into place.

The new mechanisms will be programmed into the automation of the bridge to reduce the manpower currently needed to open the bridge, the release said.

The bridge will be replaced with a more resilient “bascule” or vertical lift bridge that opens for marine traffic from one side with a counterweight system, the release said.

Comments

2 responses to “Feds grant CT $161M for $465M Walk Bridge replacement work”

  1. Piberman

    Perfect election year timing. Nevertheless welcomed.

  2. John Hamlin

    This is good news — an important step in the right direction.

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