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.